White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and CNN’s Jim Acosta had an intense exchange during Thursday’s press briefing over her refusal to disavow the president’s labeling of the medias as the “enemy of the people.”
“It would be a good thing if you were to state right here, at this briefing, that the press — the people who are gathered in this room right now, doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier — are not the enemy of the people,” Acosta said. “I think we deserve that.” Sanders listed a number of media reports that she argued were unfair or misleading, using them as an example of why the president’s attacks on the media are “completely understandable.”
“I think the president has made his position known,” Sanders said. “It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric, when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country.” She then brought up the media’s attack on her during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner when comedian Michelle Wolf mocked her looks. “You brought a comedian up to attack my appearance and called me a traitor to my own gender,” Sanders said. “As far as I know, I’m the first press secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection.”
Acosta was more interested in her response to Trump’s “enemy of the people” comment, however. “You did not say in the course of those remarks that you just made that the press is not the enemy of the people,” he said. “We all get put through the wringer, we all get put through the meat grinder in this town, and you’re no exception and I’m sorry that happened to you. I wish that had not happened.” He kept pressing, though, and brought up Ivanka Trump’s comments from earlier in the day when she told Axios she doesn’t believe the media is the “enemy of the people.” (Trump later sought to explain those comments).
“For the sake of this room, the people that are in this room, this democracy, this country … the president of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the people,” Acosta said. “His own daughter acknowledges that, and all I’m asking you to do, Sarah, is to acknowledge that right now and right here.”
Sanders reminded Acosta her job is to “speak on behalf of the president,” noting that “he’s made his comments clear.” Acosta was apparently so disturbed by the whole incident he left the press briefing early, tweeting later that her refusal to disavow Trump’s comments is “shameful.”
“I walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened,” he tweeted. “Sarah Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn’t do it. Shameful.”