CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press credentials were revoked by the White House on Wednesday because, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, he put his hands on a female White House intern when she attempted to take away his microphone during a news conference.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration,” Sanders wrote in a series of tweets after the incident. “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.” (The controversy only heated up when Sanders shared a doctored video of the episode to defend the administration’s decision.)
“Obviously, I don’t think anybody should have, any young woman, particularly, should have swiping away at them, grabbing the microphone back,” she said. “That’s very unfortunate. I have talked to that young woman. She is very brave and just doing her job.”
In reality, footage shows that the exchange between Acosta and the intern was mild and, despite the administration’s insinuation, he was not violent in any way. The intern attempted to take the microphone from him three times as President Donald Trump repeatedly cut the reporter off. During the intern’s final attempt, Acosta’s hand briefly brushed her arm, and he said, “Pardon me, ma’am.”
Acosta denied the accusation on Wednesday, saying on CNN, “I didn’t put my hands on her or touch her as they’re alleging. ... I think I handled myself professionally.” CNN stood by him, writing in a statement that Sanders “provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened.”
Blatantly lying to the public and demonizing the press are just two of the many troubling aspects of how the White House is handling this issue. Another glaring element is the swift convenience with which Trump, Sanders and Conway wielded a white woman’s alleged victimhood in front of the entire country as a valid reason to punish a man.
Until Wednesday, Trump had not once attempted to find justice for a woman who allegedly experienced assault. In fact, for all the bizarre and unfathomable events of his presidency, he has been consistent in one area: He repeatedly discredits, smears and mocks survivors of sexual violence.
The president, accused by over 20 women of sexual misconduct, including assault and rape, has claimed that all his accusers were paid, suggesting that their actions were politically motivated and they simply wanted attention. In 2016, he went so far as saying that one of the women was lying about her assault accusation because she was not attractive enough to assault. In July he made fun of the Me Too movement, implying that women are too sensitive and cry assault. More recently, he undermined Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford by mocking her for not remembering every detail of her alleged assault. And that’s just the footnote version.
When Trump peddles false narratives about assault, he discredits every person who has ever experienced sexual violence. It’s beyond disturbing when a president who has customarily discredited sexual assault survivors is so quick to fabricate and use that very trauma for personal gain.