Commentary

Jim Acosta Can't Handle the Facts

L. Brent Bozell III Tim Graham
By L. Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham | August 9, 2017 | 8:26 AM EDT

CNN's Jim Acosta (Wikimedia Commons Photo)

CNN reporter Jim Acosta pitched another fit in the White House briefing room on Aug. 2, asserting that President Trump's immigration policy was refuted by a poem engraved on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty. Trump aide Stephen Miller fought him tooth and nail, slamming him for a "cosmopolitan bias." There was no doubt that the liberal elites would sympathize with the acidic Acosta.

HBO's comedic anchorman John Oliver uncorked how the media really felt, denouncing Miller as "one of the most revolting humans" he has ever seen and a "vitamin D-deficient minion," whatever that means.

Everyone is used to Trump & Co. being on the wrong end of the liberal media's brigade of "independent fact-checkers." The Washington Post "Fact Checker" team arrived on what it accurately called the "debate" between Miller and Acosta. Michelle Ye Hee Lee insisted this was more about checking Miller. "The Fact Checker is not a media critic, and we generally do not fact-check members of the media — certainly not the opinions of individual journalists," she said.

Isn't that extraordinary? It is below the media to analyze themselves. But here's what's surprising: She had to admit that Miller was correct on all three statements she evaluated.

First, Acosta lectured that Miller was trying to "change" immigration policy by requiring immigrants to speak English and cited the Emma Lazarus poem about the huddled masses "yearning to breathe free."

Lee ruled, "Miller is correct that English proficiency currently is a requirement for naturalization." She tried to soften the blow by declaring: "Neither got it quite right about the Statue of Liberty. The statue, indeed, was a gift from France as a symbol of liberty enlightening the world — not about immigration." But then, she weirdly asserted that the biographer of Lazarus believed she "was the first American to make any sense of this statue."

Acosta kept badgering Miller about English proficiency, and "that's never been what the United States has been about," he says. Miller replied: "But your statement's shockingly ahistorical in another respect, too, which is if you look at the history of immigration, it's actually ebbed and flowed. We've had periods of very large waves, followed by periods of less immigration, and more immigration."

Lee ruled: "Miller is correct. Immigration levels ebbed and flowed throughout U.S. history, and the flow was controlled through restrictive legislation until 1965." Liberals can despair over it, but that's history.

Then Acosta really fell on his face. He said, "But this whole notion of, 'Well, they could learn — you know, they have to learn English before they get to the United States,' are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?"

Miller went for the knockout and responded: "I am shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English. It reveals your cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree. ... It's so insulting to millions of hard-working immigrants who do speak English from all over the world."

The Post fact-checker ruled: "Miller has the edge here. English is an official language in dozens of countries other than Great Britain and Australia, and is spoken in roughly 100 countries. It is the most commonly studied foreign language in the world."

When Miller was done, Acosta complained, "You called me ignorant on national television." The Washington Post "fact-checker" squad must have agonized as it underlined Acosta as the ignorant half of this exchange. If it did, kudos to the Washington Post for breaking the mold.

L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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