On Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, President Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta clashed during a press conference, which later resulted in Trump’s controversial decision to revoke Acosta’s White House press pass and a CNN lawsuit against the Trump administration.
Acosta repeatedly asked the president difficult questions, which antagonized Trump. The situation further escalated when a young female White House intern stepped in to take the microphone from Acosta, which he refused to surrender. Eventually, Acosta sat down after Trump’s persistent refusal to answer his questions, but the exchange was far from over. Trump attacked Acosta’s character, saying to him, “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.” NBC reporter Peter Alexander took Acosta’s defense when he was called upon to ask his questions. However, Acosta stood up once again to oppose Trump, taking away from Alexander’s time to ask his own questions. Following the press conference, the Trump administration revoked Acosta’s White House press pass. Sarah Huckabee Sanders made a series of tweets explaining the reasoning for Acosta’s revoked press pass, saying, “President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.” CNN later filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration. On Nov. 16, a federal judge ruled in favor of CNN in the ongoing case and temporarily restored Acosta’s press pass after determining that the White House violated his due process.
As a student reporter for Spring Hill College, the standoff between Acosta and Trump begged my attention and critical analyzation. While I believe Acosta’s behavior was not appropriate for White House decorum, Trump’s decision to completely revoke Acosta’s press pass was both irrational and unconstitutional. The White House’s reasoning for revoking his press pass was indefensible, boldly saying that Acosta “placed his hands on a young woman,” which was an untrue statement fabricated by Sanders in a feeble attempt to justify Trump’s irrationality. The footage from the press conference clearly shows that Acosta politely refused to hand over the microphone. Trump should have just been honest about his disdain for Acosta and his reporting style instead of creating a potentially damaging false allegation against him in order to justify the press pass revocation. He knew that without the allegation, the revocation would be groundless. Trump clearly just had a problem with Acosta’s persistence and the revocation was simply an authoritarian-like abuse of power. The revocation violates Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment Rights, as he has the right to both free speech and due process. Trump’s irresponsible actions are concerning for the current and future leaders of journalism, as the revocation was an obvious attempt to silence someone who opposes his views and openly challenges him in front of his peers. It is obvious that Acosta tested Trump’s fragile ego through the harsh way he responded to Acosta’s opposition during and after the conference. It is clear that Trump is very easily provoked and makes illogical decisions out of anger, which the nation should be concerned about as well.
Altogether, both parties contributed to the escalation of the situation, but the president should have responded presidentially instead of irrationally. The nation should be concerned that the president unfoundedly attempted to use his power to strip a person of their constitutional rights. Even though Acosta did not exactly respect the decorum of the White House through the unrelenting way he questioned Trump, his constitutional rights should not be infringed upon. Since the incident, the Trump administration has implemented a set of rules that journalists must abide by in press conferences, which should have been the initial and rational response. I strongly agree that the conference should have rules to maintain order and efficiency, but Trump cannot punish a reporter for not abiding by rules that were not in place at the time of the incident.