The press “hard pass” of CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta has been suspended, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement Wednesday evening.
The announcement came after a contentious exchange earlier in the day during a press conference where Acosta repeatedly interrupted and badgered President Donald Trump and refused to give up the microphone when a female White House aide tried to obtain it to pass it on to another reporter.
In her statement, Sanders stated the White House will “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young women just trying to do her job as a White House intern.” Sanders called Acosta’s behavior “absolutely unacceptable” and disrespectful to other reporters he refused to allow to ask their questions.
The full statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders follows:
Statement from the Press Secretary:
“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. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history. Contrary to CNN’s assertions, there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today. Only they would attack the President for not being supportive of a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of an hour and a half – including several from the reporter in question. The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it is an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration. As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.” - Sarah Sanders
Later Wednesday evening, Sanders tweeted that the White House stands by its decision to suspend Acosta and invited Americans to watch the video of the incident she embedded in her post.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union called the White House move against Acosta "unacceptable."
"White House correspondents represent the public, and their job is to ask hard questions, not to be polite company. This White House in particular, which has shattered all norms of etiquette, should not mistake a press conference for a tea party," said Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's speech, privacy, and technology project.
“It is unacceptable and un-American for the president to expel a reporter for doing his job aggressively. The White House should reverse this decision immediately."
The White House Correspondents Association has, likewise, defended Acosta's behavior and objected to his suspension:
"The White House Correspondents’ Association strongly objects to the Trump Administration’s decision to use US Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship. Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offense and is 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. Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions.
"We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.
"We encourage anyone with doubts that this reaction was disproportionate to the perceived offense to view the video of the events from earlier today."