CNN’s Jim Acosta has been stripped of his White House press credentials after a shouting match with President Donald Trump. How did his fake news feud with the president begin, and is it actually a love-hate relationship?
Trump and Acosta got into an ugly verbal tussle during Wednesday’s post-midterm press conference at the White House, with the president pushing back against the CNN correspondent’s pointed questions about characterizing the migrant “caravan” heading towards the US borders as an “invasion.”
Trump blasted Acosta for the “horrible” way he treats people, adding that his network should be “ashamed” for employing such a “rude, terrible person.”
Shortly after the altercation, Acosta learned that he was no longer welcome at the White House. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the CNN reporter’s credentials had been revoked because he manhandled a White House intern while struggling for control of the press conference microphone – an allegation CNN has disputed.
Justified or not, it was simply a matter of time before the CNN-phobic White House brought out the ban hammer. Lest we forget: Acosta and Trump have been feuding since before the president was even sworn in.
Twilight of a fake news feud
The bad blood between Trump and Acosta can be traced back to a fateful press conference in January 2017, when the president-elect blasted CNN for “going out of their way” to “build up” the lurid but never-substantiated claims detailed in the Steele dossier.
Acosta then interjected: “”Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question?”
“Not you. Your organization is terrible,” Trump snapped back. “Quiet. Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”
Trump’s response can now be credited with launching a thousand fake news ships.
‘I like real news’
Fast-forward to August, 2017: Trump and Acosta square off again – this time over Trump’s lack of response to the violence that took place at a now-infamous white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
When Acosta pressed the president to weigh in on the issue, Trump rolled out his favorite mantra.
“Doesn’t bother me at all,” Trump said after Acosta asked if he could fire off some questions about the rally. “But you know, I like real news, not fake news. You’re fake news. Thank you everybody.”
Acosta managed to get in a final query before the president exited the room, however.
“Haven’t you spread a lot of fake news yourself, sir?” the CNN correspondent inquired.
Please be nice?
Perhaps in a spirit of diplomatic reconciliation, Trump attempted to pre-empt Acosta’s “rude” behavior during his Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.
“Be nice. Be respectful,” Trump said to Acosta as he took the microphone during a post-summit press conference.
Back to their roots
The pair returned to their “question rejected, fake news” routine a month later, during Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom in July. At a joint press conference between the US leader and UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Acosta attempted to launch into one of his signature interrogations – only to be unceremoniously shut down.
“Can I ask you a question?” Acosta said during the presser.
“No,” was Trump’s curt reply. “CNN is fake news. I don’t take questions from CNN.” He then called on John Roberts of Fox News, lauding him for hailing from “a real network.”
Acosta ‘actually a nice guy’
The British drama didn’t end there, however. A day later, Trump tweeted out that Acosta was “actually a nice guy” – even though his network was “dying in the ratings” and failed to cover his “takedown” of their star correspondent.
“Takedown? I don’t think so. Perhaps we should even the playing field next time and you can take my question. (You’re right about one thing.. I am a nice guy),” Acosta tweeted back.
So did they bury the hatchet and play a friendly round of golf together in Scotland? Not quite. Instead, the White House decided to cancel National Security Adviser John Bolton’s scheduled appearance on CNN – citing Acosta’s “bad behavior” for the decision.
Trump’s distaste for CNN has apparently rubbed off on many of his supporters. During a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida in August, MAGA fans heckled Acosta, shouting “CNN sucks!”, “Traitor!” and “You’re a liar!” at him.
Acosta apparently took it all in stride.
“It was great chatting with all the Trump supporters in Tampa tonight. I took more questions from them than the president has taken from the press lately,” he tweeted after the rally.
In June, he was given a similar reception at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina. The crowd yelled “Go home Jim” and “Fake news” as Acosta waited for the president’s arrival at a press area.
While the fake news feud has likely caused irreparable brain damage to anyone foolish enough to read Twitter, the endless bickering has almost certainly benefited both belligerents. For CNN, the ongoing beef is a way to gain street cred with the #Resistance – and boost ratings, which are behind both Fox and MSNBC. Trump, meanwhile, has a poster boy for his war against the “fake news media.”
The vendetta has taken on an almost scripted feel, columnist James Warred noted.
“Combatants on both sides often have their lines very much prepared, even committed to memory. Still, results are clear. CNN’s audience goes up, while Trump’s base is confirmed in their preternatural suspicions about the press.”
In a lengthy profile of the CNN correspondent, Politico’s Ben Strauss asked former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon if Acosta was playing into the administration’s hands.
Bannon reportedly texted back one word: “Yes!!!!!!!”
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