The White House on Tuesday issued a carefully worded defense of its decision to revoke CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials shortly after the network sued President Donald Trump’s administration over the matter.
The drama stems from last week’s combative press conference, during which Trump repeatedly lashed out at reporters for clamoring to ask questions.
Although press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders initially accused Acosta of improperly laying his hands on a female intern attempting to take the microphone from him, in its most recent statement the White House shifted its argument to accuse Acosta of simply being rude.
“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,” the White House said Tuesday.
Many of the reporters present at the press conference attempted to ask additional questions, prolonging their time with the microphone. Yet the White House says it singled out Acosta because this was not the first time he “inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.”
The evening of the press conference, Sanders shared an apparently manipulated video to bolster her argument that Acosta touched the intern inappropriately, and she received swift backlash.
The newest statement made no mention of the allegation, saying, “The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional.”
CNN called the revocation of its reporter’s credentials a “wrongful” violation of the First Amendment.
“If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials,” the network said in a statement on Tuesday.
The administration argued that the First Amendment “is not served” by Acosta’s behavior, which “impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.” It dismissed CNN’s suit “just more grandstanding.”
Numerous reporters and free-press advocates criticized the administration’s decision to pull Acosta’s credentials, which was seen as an escalation of the president’s habitual attacks on the media. The White House Correspondents Association called the move “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 group said in a statement.
Multiple outlets have reported that the CNN suit against the administration was assigned to a Trump-appointed judge in the D.C. Circuit who previously served as counsel to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.