As expected, members of my profession (at least it used to be a profession) have closed ranks to vigorously defend CNN correspondent Jim Acosta for “standing up” to President Donald Trump during a press conference. (See videos below.)
Here’s a roundup of the angry media reaction: “Reporters condemn White House decision to bar CNN’s Acosta,” focusing on White House allegations that Acosta “put his hands on” an intern who tried to take the mic away from Acosta after he refused to give up the floor after Trump told him to sit down. The press corps also is angry that the White House has yanked Acosta’s press pass.
But that’s not what bugged me the most about the Acosta controversy. Nor will I defend Trump’s stupid, personal remarks directed at Acosta. What upset me the most was Acosta’s unprofessional conduct, one that deserves no defense from journalism colleagues.
He was way out of line professionally. His job is to report what the president said, not to engage in an argument with the president. He’s not there to win a debate. It’s the president’s press conference; he has a right to call on, ignore, or to move on to whomever he wants. If he obfuscates, doesn’t answer the question the way the reporter wants, that’s tough. Let the readers and viewers see for themselves that the president is sidestepping a question and make their own judgments.
So, again, it’s necessary to fall back on that overly used response: “What if the same thing had happened to President Obama?” It’s necessary because the hypocrisy has to be pointed out to many left-wing journalists blinded by the ideology from doing their jobs professionally. Reporters at press conferences treated Obama courteously and professionally. Obama selectively read the names of reporters he would call on from note cards, without objection. Once when a reporter tried to intrude, the president reminded the reporter that he had to wait his turn to be called on…if he was to be called on at all. I don’t recall any reporter refusing an Obama desire to move on to the next questioner. Or refusing to give up the mic.
“Oh, Acosta was only asking hard questions,” comes the response from among others, the ACLU. “Acosta was simply doing his constitutionally protected job.” Sure, ask away with your hard questions. But asking is different from debating. The fact that Acosta received no criticism for his actions from his journalism colleagues shows just how tendentious the media have become. It shames me as journalist to see how low my profession has sunk. It saddens me that the “profession” has provided even more ammunition for Trump and his admirers to attack the press.
As for Acosta’s insistence that he was merely trying to get an answer to his question about Trump’s use of the word “invasion” to describe the marchers making their way through Mexico to request asylum in the United States: Trump answered. Acosta didn’t like the answer. Acosta wasn’t asking; he was insisting that Trump had no right to use that term and he obviously wanted Trump to admit that he was wrong. Didn’t happen. Move on.
Moreover, Trump was correct to apply one of the dictionary definitions of invasion: “An incursion by a large number of people or things into a place or sphere of activity. As in, ‘stadium guards are preparing for another invasion of fans. An invasion of tourists. Synonyms: Influx, inundation, flood, rush, torrent, deluge, avalanche, juggernaut.”
CNN’s edited version of the confrontation and Acosta’s response: