CNN Sues Trump for Barring Acosta, White House Says “Grandstanding” Jim Acosta's press privileges were revoked after a heated exchange with President Trump during a press conference


AMERICAN NEWS broadcaster CNN has sued US President Donald Trump and several of his top aides for suspending their White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass, a move which the White House called “grandstanding”.

CNN filed the lawsuit at the Washington DC District Court on Nov. 13 for violating Acosta’s “First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights to due process.”

A statement issued by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said they will “vigorously defend against the lawsuit”.

In an ever-changing defense of their move to bar Acosta from the White House, the statement had no mention of Acosta losing his privileges for “placing his hands on a young woman”. It instead attributed the decision to Acosta’s refusal to “yield to other reporters” present.

The White House had stripped Acosta of his press privileges including the press pass commonly known as a Secret Service “hard pass” last week (Nov. 7) after a heated exchange between him and President Trump during a press conference.

The altercation started over Acosta’s question on the migrant caravan moving towards the US border. Trump refused to answer his follow up question saying “that’s enough” after which a female White House intern tried to grab the microphone from Acosta’s hand.

The White House Correspondents’ Association has come out in support of CNN’s lawsuit and has said that Trump “should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”

Shifting Goalposts

Since revoking Acosta’s press privileges, the White House has flip-flopped on the reason behind the move.

A day after the altercation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement justifying the White House’s decision to revoke Acosta’s press pass saying: “President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. 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…”

The White House also released the misleading video of the press conference to back their claim that Acosta’s press pass was revoked because of how he behaved with the intern.

The White House was severely criticised in the media for its decision to not only bar Acosta from the White House but for also justifying their move through lies.

The White House News Photographers Association called the administration’s move “deceptive, dangerous and unethical” in a statement. “As visual journalists, we know that manipulating images is manipulating truth,” they further stated.

Trump overrode the stance when he indicated that the real reason behind Acosta’s ouster was his lack of respect for the White House.

The reason was again changed when Sanders, in a tweet, said that it was “disrespectful” of Acosta to not give up the microphone to allow other reporters to ask questions.

Support for CNN

Many media outlets and civil society groups have come out in support of CNN and Jim Acosta. The Committee to Protect Journalists called on the White House to restore Acosta’s credentials.

“Journalists should be able to do their job without fear that a tough series of questions will provoke retaliation,” said Committee to Protect Journalist’s Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch in a statement.

Asking for the immediate restoration of Acosta’s credentials, the committee said that White House should “refrain from punishing reporters by revoking their access—that’s not how a free press works.”

Fred Ryan, CEO of Washington Post, also came out in support of CNN’s lawsuit saying “it is a journalist’s role to ask hard questions, hold the powerful to account and provide readers with as much information as possible.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a non-profit legal and advocacy group that has spearheaded many civil liberties campaigns in the country, came down hard on the Trump administration calling their move “un-American and unlawful”.

Trump vs CNN: A History of Conflict

This isn’t the first time Trump has spared with CNN. Since taking office, Trump has often referred to CNN as “fake news” and has repeatedly been rude to CNN reporters.

In July 2017, Trump had tweeted a video that showed him wrestling with a person whose head had been replaced with CNN’s logo.

In July this year, Trump refused an answer to Acosta’s question during a joint press conference with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Buckinghamshire saying: “I don’t take questions from CNN. CNN is fake news.”

And to make matters worse, the White House cancelled an interview National Security Adviser John Bolton was to give CNN, a move that Sanders defended saying  “CNN reporter disrespected POTUS and PM May during their press conference. Instead of rewarding bad behaviour, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.”

Trump even went as far as to blame the media for the pipe bombs that were sent to prominent Trump critics which included the CNN office.

US District Judge Timothy Kelly has ordered the White House to respond to the lawsuit by 11:00 am (1600 GMT) on Wednesday and has set a hearing for 3:30 pm.




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