White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shut down CNN’s Jim Acosta on Thursday, spurring him to leave the briefing room in a snit.
National Security Advisor John Bolton, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Commander of the United States Cyber Command Paul Nakasone, and FBI Director Christopher Wray joined Sanders to outline the administration’s strategy to combat U.S. election interference.
Toward the end of the briefing, Acosta pressed Sanders on President Trump’s habit of calling the American media “enemies of the people.”
“I think it would be a good thing if you were to to say right here at this briefing that the press — the people who are gathered in this room right now doing their jobs every day, asking questions of the officials like the ones you brought forward earlier — are not the enemy of the people. I think we deserve that,” he said.
“I think the president has made his position known,” Sanders began, unable to say much more before Acosta interrupted her.
“I have politely waited and I even called on you despite the fact you interrupted me while calling on your colleague,” Sanders said, while Acosta interrupted her some more.
Sanders then delivered an impassioned lecture on why the president (and his supporters) might consider the press to be “enemies of the people.”
“It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country. Repeatedly — repeatedly the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other than to incite anger.
The media has attacked me personally on a number of occasions, including your own network — said I should be harassed as a life sentence, that I should be choked. ICE officials are not welcome in their place of worship and personal information is shared on the internet.
When I was hosted by the Correspondents’ Association — of which almost all of you are members of — you brought up a comedian up to attack my appearance and call me a traitor to my own gender.
In fact, as far as I know, I am the first press secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection. The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration and certainly we have a role to play, but the media has a role to play for the discourse in this country, as well.
Acosta was not impressed by Sanders’ words.
“You did not say, in the course of those remarks that you just made, that the press is not the enemy of the people,” he pointed out.
Even though Sanders had brought up the unfortunate fact that she needed Secret Service protection — a historic first for press secretaries — because of the media’s constant “verbal assaults” against the administration, Acosta remained unmoved.
“We all get put through the meat-grinder in this town and you’re no exception,” he said.
“For the sake of this room — the people who are in this room, this democracy, this country. All the people around the world are watching what you’re saying, Sarah. And the White House for the United States of America — the president of the United States — should not refer to us as the enemy of the people. His own daughter acknowledges that and all I’m asking you to do, Sarah, is to acknowledge that right now and right here,” he insisted.
“I appreciate your passion,” Sanders said dryly. “I share it. I’ve addressed this question, I’ve addressed my personal feelings. I’m here to speak on behalf of the president. He’s made his comments clear,” she said.
CNN's Jim Acosta asks Sarah Sanders about Trump's comments that the media is the "enemy of the people": "You did not say … that the press is not the enemy of people" pic.twitter.com/H3TJCFwiON
— Axios (@axios) August 2, 2018
Acosta on Twitter called Sanders’ refusal to say what he demanded “shameful” and said that he walked out of the briefing room in protest.
I walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened. Sarah Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn't do it. Shameful.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 2, 2018