8 Nov 2018

White House suspends CNN reporter's access

2:43 pm on 8 November 2018

The White House has suspended the press access of CNN reporter Jim Acosta after a fiery exchange during a press conference today.

US President Donald Trump points to CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a post-election press conference in the White House.

US President Donald Trump points to CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a post-election press conference in the White House. Photo: AFP

The news conference, which stretched close to 90 minutes, quickly turned raucous when some reporters pushed him on whether his campaign rhetoric on migrants from central America was divisive - and on developments in a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump pushed back aggressively, directing his criticism at the media, and particularly at CNN.

Mr Acosta stood up and began to ask a question relating to the statements Mr Trump made at the end of the midterms campaign.

Mr Trump interrupted, saying "here we go."

The reporter challenged Mr Trump on his characterisation of the South American migrant caravan as an "invasion."

Mr Acosta pointed out the migrant caravan was "hundreds of miles" away from the US border.

Mr Trump responded by saying "I think you should let me run the country, and you run CNN. If you did it well, your ratings would be much better."

"CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them," Mr Trump said as Mr Acosta wrestled with a White House staffer who forcibly pulled the microphone from his hands.

"You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working for CNN" Mr Trump told Mr Acosta.

"You're a very rude person. They way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible and the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn't treat people that way."

Later, when Mr Acosta stood up to challenge the President, Mr Trump said "when you report fake news, which CNN do a lot, you are the enemy of the people

The White House has now suspended Mr Acosta's press access.

In a series of tweets, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Mr Acosta was banned for "placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job."

"This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter's colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.

"The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it's an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this administration," Ms Sanders said.

Mr Acosta tweeted that he had been denied entrance to the White House by the Secret Service when he went in for an 8pm hit.

CNN released a statement after the conference saying the President's 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.

"A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere."

Footage of the incident between Mr Acosta and the staffer has been widely shared on social media.

Elsewhere in the conference, PBS NewsHour's Yamiche Alcindor asked the President about white nationalists emboldened by his remarks labeling himself a "nationalist."

"That's such a racist question," said the President, who has made accusations of unfair coverage from the media a staple on the campaign trail.

Even as Mr Trump mused about working with Democrats, he was quick to promise a "warlike posture" if the Democratic controlled House opens investigations into his administration.

"They can play that game, but we can play it better," he said.

Trump took credit for his Republican Party's gains in the Senate, casting those results in historic terms. He said he "stopped the blue wave," noting nine of 11 candidates who he stumped for in the final week of the race won.

But he expressed frustration that 43 House Republicans retired rather than seek reelection, saying that hurt his party.

He took at a jab at "grandstanding" congressmen from his own party whom he said would have made it difficult to get legislation through the House, had Republicans eked out a narrow win in the chamber.

Mr Trump took the rare step of mocking Republican candidates who kept their distance from him during the campaign because of concerns that his divisive messages on immigration would turn off voters - but lost anyway.

He singled out Peter Roskam of Illinois, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, John Faso of New York, and New Jersey senate candidate Bob Hugin.

"Carlos Curbelo, Mike Coffman - too bad, Mike," he said, referring to losing Republican congressmen in Florida and Colorado contests.

He scorned Utah's Mia Love and Virginia's Barbara Comstock. "Mia Love gave me no love," he said. "And Barbara Comstock was another one. I mean, I think she could have won that race, but she didn't want to have any embrace."

- RNZ/Reuters

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