White House bars CNN reporter after heated Trump exchange

VIDEO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON  (AFP) - The White House on Wednesday (Nov 7) suspended the press pass of a CNN reporter who earlier sparred with Mr Donald Trump at a news conference, in which the US President branded the journalist an “enemy of the people”. 

A visibly angry Trump had called reporter Jim Acosta a “rude, terrible person”, after the CNN White House correspondent refused the President’s orders to sit down and give up the microphone during the conference one day after the US midterm vote. 

“The White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders hours later, referring to Mr Acosta, who then tweeted that he had been denied White House entry. 

The heated exchange began after the prominent journalist clung to the microphone and persisted with questions about the President’s views on a caravan of Central American migrants making its way to the US border. 

Mr Trump said “that’s enough!” and a White House intern unsuccessfully tried to take the microphone from the CNN journalist. 

“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration,” Ms Sanders said in her statement. 

“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. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” she said. 

Mr Acosta shot back at the accusation of misconduct, tweeting, “this is a lie,” as a number of Washington journalists who had been at the press conference tweeted their support for him. 

‘ONGOING ATTACKS’ 

 It was the latest in a long history of fiery run-ins between the pair. 

When asked if he had “demonised immigrants” during the midterms campaign, Mr Trump replied: “No, I want them to come into the country. But they have to come in legally.” 

Mr Acosta persisted, saying: “They are hundreds of miles away. That is not an invasion.” 

At that point, the President snapped. 

“Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN, and if you did it well, your ratings would be higher,” Mr Trump said. 

As the reporter continued, Mr Trump declared: “That’s enough, put down the mic” and walked away from his own podium, as if leaving. 

The intern attempted to grab the microphone from Mr Acosta, who nevertheless tried to shout out one last question. 

Waving his finger, Mr Trump berated him. “I’ll tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN,” he said. 

When NBC reporter Peter Alexander took the mic for the next question, he defended Mr Acosta as a “diligent reporter” – earning Mr Trump’s ire. 

“I’m not a fan of yours either. To be honest. You aren’t the best,” he said. 

Looking back at Mr Acosta, who again rose up in his own defence, Mr Trump added: “When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.” 

In a statement, CNN called out Mr Trump. 

“This President’s ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” the network said, voicing its support for Mr Acosta and “journalists everywhere.”