In a stunning break with protocol، the White House said Wednesday night that it's suspending the press pass of CNN's Jim Acosta "until further notice."، CNN reported.
The move came just hours after Acosta، CNN's chief White House correspondent، drew the ire of President Donald Trump and his allies by asking multiple questions at a post-midterms news conference. Trump insulted Acosta and called him a "terrible" person. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement that Acosta would be stripped of what's known as a "hard pass،" which gives him access to the White House grounds. CNN said in a statement that Acosta has the network's full support. The revocation of his pass "was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today's press conference،" the statement said. "In an explanation، Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support." In the 7 p.m. hour on Wednesday، Acosta was stopped at the White House's Pennsylvania Avenue gate where reporters usually enter. He was heading back to the White House for a live shot on "Anderson Cooper 360." "I've just been denied entrance to the WH،" Acosta tweeted. "Secret Service just informed me I cannot enter the WH grounds for my 8pm hit." Acosta posted a video of a Secret Service officer removing his pass. "I was just told to do it،" the officer said on the recording. "I am now giving my hard pass to the Secret Service،" Acosta said. Reporters who regularly cover the White House are routinely granted "hard passes" to ease entry and exit to the grounds. It is unclear whether Acosta will be granted some other sort of entry pass for his work. But on Wednesday night، he was turned away at the gate.
The removal of his pass is a sharp escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and CNN. It immediately stirred concerns within the White House press corps. Peter Baker، the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times، said on Twitter: "This is something I've never seen since I started covering the White House in 1996. Other presidents did not fear tough questioning." The White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA)، which advocates for the press corps، issued a statement soon after Acosta was denied entry، calling the revocation of his access "unacceptable." "Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials، including the President،" the association said. "Such interactions، however uncomfortable they may appear to be، help define the strength of our national institutions. We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action." Elisabeth Bumiller، the Washington bureau chief for The New York Times، said that "the president should not pick and choose who covers him، and he should certainly not force out a representative of one of the country's leading news organizations، one that tens of millions of Americans depend on for their news." Acosta has been one of the most aggressive reporters on the Trump beat، winning him huge numbers of fans but also huge numbers of critics. During Wednesday's news conference، many people on social media thanked Acosta for trying to hold the president accountable for his words and deeds. But others condemned the correspondent. Some Trump boosters said Acosta's credentials should be revoked. And pro-Trump media outlets ran stories alleging that the reporter had mistreated the White House aide who tried to take a microphone away from him at the news conference. Sanders repeated this assertion in her statement. "President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration،" she said. "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." CNN producer Allie Malloy responded to Sanders via Twitter: "This is a complete lie. The woman grabbed Jim's arm repeatedly. He never once touched her. In fact at one point @Acosta tells her politely 'pardon me، mam' as she's yanking on his arm." Acosta also tweeted that Sanders' description of the incident was a "lie." At the news conference، Trump snapped at the press corps، called reporters "rude" for asking questions، and made baseless claims about political polling. "Such a hostile media. It's so sad،" he said، keeping up his years-long campaign against the people who cover him. Trump's most contentious exchange was with Acosta. Immediately afterward، CNN said in a statement: "This President's ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. They are not only dangerous، they are disturbingly un-American." "While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press، he has a sworn obligation to protect it،" CNN added. "A free press is vital to democracy، and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere." The news conference was shown live on CNN and all the other cable news channels and broadcast networks. Media critics and Democrats said Trump's combative streak — telling reporters to "sit down" and insulting some of them — might be part of a strategy to deflect attention from Democratic victories in the midterms.