To hear members of the White House press corps tell it, at stake is the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and perhaps the very future of America as we know it.
In reality, it’s nothing of the kind.
CNN’s Jim Acosta was booted out of the White House last week because he’s a petulant crybaby who decided that he would simply bully his way into asking the president (of the United States, mind you) question after question after question after you get the idea.
Yes, CNN contends Mr. Acosta was simply exercising his First Amendment right to refuse to give up the microphone during a presidential press conference, and even swipe away the hand of a young woman who was just trying to do her job. For that reason, President Trump (and you know it was President Trump) had Mr. Acosta’s press pass revoked. Like the Soup Nazi in “Seinfeld,” he said: “No soup for you! Come back, one year!”
On Tuesday, CNN filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in federal court demanding the White House return Mr. Acosta’s permanent press pass. The suit names not just the Trump administration as a defendant, but press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, and the Secret Service agent who physically revoked Mr. Acosta’s credentials as well (so petty).
To recap, Mr. Acosta had refused to allow other reporters attending the presidential press conference to ask questions by refusing to hand back the microphone in a grandstanding display (a move former President George W. Bush used to call “peacocking”). And he really didn’t want Mr. Trump to answer, anyway, he was there to make biased statement after biased statement.
“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” CNN said in a press release. “We have asked the court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass to be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process.”
In the White House, reporters are (rightly) expected to behave like grown-ups. Yes, they’re there to do a job — a very important job. But that doesn’t give them the right to be rude, or to flout the rules of civilized society. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to simply berate the president during a White House press conference, and Mr. Trump finally said, “Enough is enough.”
Mrs. Sanders on Tuesday perfectly explained the situation after CNN filed its lawsuit.
“We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” she said in a statement.
“CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Mr. Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment. After Mr. Acosta asked the President two questions — each of which the President answered — he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.
“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 monopolize the floor. If there is no check on this type of behavior it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business,” Mrs. Sanders said.
The White House Correspondents’ Association on Tuesday criticized the removal of Mr. Acosta’s pass.
“Revoking access to the White House complex amounted to disproportionate reaction to the events of last Wednesday,” said group president Olivier Knox. “The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”
But it’s not that at all. Mr. Acosta’s just a snotty little brat who needs a timeout. Now, he’s having one. And that’s actually a good thing. To CNN, the message is clear: Bring a grown-up to the White House. Until then, sit quietly in the corner and think about what you did wrong.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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