Thursday 18 July 2019

CNN sues Trump amid row over reporter Jim Acosta

The broadcaster has demanded the return of their correspondent’s White House press credentials.

Mr Trump points at CNN’s Jim Acosta, as a White House aide takes the microphone from him (AP)
Mr Trump points at CNN’s Jim Acosta, as a White House aide takes the microphone from him (AP)

By David Bauder

American broadcaster CNN is suing the Trump administration, demanding the return of correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials to cover the White House.

The US administration revoked Mr Acosta’s access last week following President Donald Trump’s controversial post-election news conference, where Mr Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he did not want to hear anything more from him.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Washington DC district court.

CNN claims the revocation of Mr Acosta’s press pass violates the constitutional rights to freedom on the press and due process. The network is asking for an immediate restraining order to return Mr Acosta to the White House.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against his lawsuit.”

Mr Trump has made CNN and its reporters a particular target of his denunciation of “fake news” and characterisation of the media as an enemy of the people.

CNN CEO Jeff Zucker, in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly, called it a “pattern of targeted harassment”.

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Jim Acosta (AP)

The White House initially contended it was Mr Acosta’s refusal to give up the microphone that led to his banishment. CNN said it is apparent the president did not like his questions.

Theodore Olson, former US solicitor general and one of CNN’s lawyers on the case, said: “Mr Acosta’s press credentials must be restored so that all members of the press know they will remain free to ask tough questions, challenge government officials and report the business of the nation to the American people.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association backed the lawsuit, with the group’s president, Olivier Knox, saying: “The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”

CNN said Mr Acosta was given no warning of the action, and no recourse to appeal it.

The reporter travelled to Paris to cover Mr Trump’s visit there this weekend and, although given permission by the French government to cover a news event, the Secret Service denied him entrance, the company said.

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CNN journalist Abby Phillip asks President Donald Trump a question before he left for France (AP)

“Without this credential, a daily White House correspondent like Acosta effectively cannot do his job,” legal papers said.

CNN asked for an injunction to immediately reinstate Mr Acosta, as well as a hearing on the larger issue of barring a reporter.

In an effort to prove the administration’s case last week, Ms Sanders distributed via Twitter a doctored video sped up to make Mr Acosta’s physical actions towards the intern who tried to take the microphone seem more threatening.

That was not mentioned by Ms Sanders in her statement on Tuesday. She cited his refusal to yield to other reporters after he asked Mr Trump two questions.

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Mr Trump lambasted Mr Acosta and the CNN network (AP)

She said: “The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional.

“The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolise the floor.”

Mr Trump told Mr Acosta at the news conference that “CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you work for them. You are a rude, terrible person”.

Mr Acosta has been a polarising figure even beyond the distaste that Mr Trump and his supporters have for him. The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, editorialised last week that Mr Acosta’s encounter with Mr Trump at the news conference “was less about asking questions and more about making statements”.

In doing so, the CNN White House reporter gave President Donald Trump room to critique Acosta’s professionalism,” it added.

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