Updated: Feb 15, 2019
White House media relations have always existed as a matter of mutual convenience, not as a matter of legal guidelines. Under President Donald Trump, many reporters decided not to play the traditional role of loyal opposition. Instead, they’re full blown #RESIST. It’s the new media - including CNN’s Jim Acosta.
I am often a guest on CNN, and I realize stating my opinion tests their hospitality. But I think this needs to be said.
When a federal court decided to reinstate Acosta’s press pass, denied due to his recurring disrespectful interactions with the President, the judge avoided First Amendment concerns. He instead ruled that the White House denied The CNN White House correspondent due process: a set of rules to follow, and an appeal process if he were denied access. As a result, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders - who I truly respect - said the White House would “develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”
To assure decorum, there must be due process to deny access to bad actors.
Nobody can deny the Acosta-White House interaction is disrupting presidential media relations. You may argue who’s at fault, but most would say there’s blame on both sides. The final straw was always coming, and it arrived. That unfortunate press office staffer handles by Acosta was collateral damage.
Most media outlets defend Acosta, while several top national journalists tell me they think he is a blowhard getting in the way of their reporting. They won’t say that publicly, but Jim must feel it’s a bit icy around the briefing room.
And let’s just be honest: Jim Acosta did not strike the young female White House press aide; he did not lay hands on her. He contacted the female intern’s forearm with his own forearm. Honest observers know that, in context, this is a distinction without a difference. He made intentional, incidental bodily contact to stop her, then appeared to think better of it and stopped.
Still, he clearly overpowered her and she was obliged to kneel down and wait for him to finish. Watch the video. She knelt in submission. How is that okay?
This is a certainly a story of a powerful older man physically interfering with a young female trying to do her job, which should be tailor-made for an era focused on gender and power dynamics. But not when Donald Trump is involved.
Media outlets which forcefully reported on gender issues in other contexts saw nothing sexist in this encounter. It’s hypocrisy. If we’re supposed to have a conversation about workplace equality, the media’s reaction to this proves unequivocally we still have a long way to go. That doesn’t stop them from wagging their fingers at others.
But now we will have “rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences” instead of time-honored matters of mutual convenience. There is mutual blame. But Acosta bears personal responsibility for this sea change - and he owes that young White House staffer a personal apology.
That’s not going to happen.