CNN’s Jim Acosta told Sanders during a press briefing that it would be a “good thing if you were to state” that the press is not “the enemy of the people.” But Sanders didn’t acknowledge his request.
“It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country,” Sanders said. “The media has attacked me personally on a number of occasions.”
She continued: “The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration. Certainly, we have a role to play, but the media has a role to play for the discourse in this country as well.”
Acosta again pressed Sanders for a statement against the anti-media phrase, but she refused.
“For the sake of this room, the people who are in this room, this democracy, this country, all the people around the world are watching what you’re saying, Sarah,” Acosta said. “The president of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the people.”
“I appreciate your passion,” Sanders responded. “I share it. I’ve addressed this question. I’ve addressed my personal feelings. I’m here to speak on behalf of the president. He’s made his comments clear.”
Acosta tweeted about his tense exchange with Sanders minutes later, noting that he walked out of the briefing before it ended because he was “totally saddened” by her “shameful” response.
Earlier Thursday, senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump, a daughter of the president, told Axios she didn’t share her father’s belief that the press is “the enemy of the people.”
“I’ve certainly received my fair share of reporting on me personally that I know not to be fully accurate,” she said, “so I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripe, especially when they sort of feel targeted, but, no, I do not consider the media the enemy of the people.”
Trump tweeted hours later that he felt his daughter’s comments were correct because the entire media isn’t “the enemy of the people” ― but he said “a large percentage” is.
“It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!” tweeted Trump, who has accused several news outlets, including CNN, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post, of being “fake news.”
Acosta appeared on CNN following Thursday’s briefing. He described the phrase as “un-American” and suggested journalists should take to the streets to protest its use to attack them.
“I’m tired of this,” Acosta said. “It is not right. It is not fair. It is not just. It is un-American to come out here and call the press the enemy of the people, and Ivanka Trump knows that. I don’t know why her father doesn’t. And I don’t know why this press secretary doesn’t.”
Acosta has been outspoken against the president’s aggressive rhetoric against the media. On Tuesday, he was berated by people at a Trump rally in Florida, where they gave him the middle finger and shouted “CNN sucks” during his live broadcast. He warned that “hostility whipped by Trump and some in conservative media” will result in someone getting hurt.
“We should not treat our fellow Americans this way,” he tweeted at the time. “The press is not the enemy.”
This story has been updated to include Trump’s tweet.