Rich Manieri: CNN vs President Trump: They’re both wrong
If you haven’t heard, or just don’t care, which would be understandable, CNN is suing the Trump administration.
The nonsense started last week when CNN’s White House correspondent, and boil on the president’s posterior, Jim Acosta, once again made a spectacle of himself at a press conference. President Trump then revoked Acosta’s press credentials.
This is one of those fights where it’s difficult to manufacture a rooting interest. In one corner, you have a petulant, agenda-driven reporter who continues to violate one of the basic tenets of news reporting by making himself the story.
In the other corner, you have a thin-skinned president who will always take whatever chum Acosta tosses into the water. And Acosta knows it.
This is not about fact-finding or searching for truth, which is what journalism is supposed to be about. Instead, this is about Acosta deliberately creating a scene so CNN will have something to obsess over for the next week.
Of course, the president has the pulpit and the opportunity to defuse such situations. But as we know, Trump is not a defuser. He’s a teetering drum of kerosene surrounded by burning embers.
If you haven’t already chosen a side in this ridiculous schoolyard scrap, I have a suggestion â€’ don’t bother. They’re both wrong.
First, let’s deal with Acosta.
He used his time with the White House microphone last week to filibuster about the migrant caravan.
“You’ve said this caravan was an ‘invasion,’” Acosta began. “As you know Mr. President, the caravan was not an invasion.”
Trump then attempted to cut off Acosta, who kept going.
“May I ask one other question...?”
Another question? I must have missed the first one.
At that point, a poor White House intern jumped in and tried to grab the microphone from Acosta, who wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Then, instead of moving on and refusing to give Acosta the attention he so desperately wanted, Trump couldn’t help himself.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” Trump said, as he pointed his finger at Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person and you shouldn’t be working for CNN.”
Such a scene would be funny it wasn’t so pathetic.
Yes, a reporter has the right to challenge the president. And it’s not uncommon for a White House correspondent to ask a follow up question or two. But there is such a thing as decorum.
A credential doesn’t give you the right to be rude or belligerent, much like buying a ticket to a football game doesn’t give you the right to throw a beer bottle onto the field. And Acosta isn’t the only reporter in the room with questions.
Nevertheless, this has worked out swimmingly for Acosta. Not only is he now a big story, but he has forged his way into the realm of journalistic martyrdom.
Which is one reason why Trump shouldn’t have taken his credentials away.
Trump has now turned Acosta into a sympathetic figure, a champion of free speech and protector of the people’s right to know.
“The White House has violated CNN and @Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” CNN tweeted Tuesday.
And there’s the story, front and center, on CNN.com.
“CNN sues President Trump and top White House aides for barring Jim Acosta.”
Let the 24/7 panel discussion begin.
The president also can’t ban journalists because they’re annoying. Part of a reporter’s job is to be annoying and to ask difficult, uncomfortable questions. We need an adversarial press which, by the way, was mostly supine during the Obama presidency.
But acting like a jerk and wasting everyone’s time is not part of the job description.
I get it. These two don’t like each other. It happens. As Jerry Seinfeld once observed, “Not everybody likes everybody.”
But Trump and Acosta have more in common than their disdain for each other and their inability to recognize the high road if they were glued to it.
The conduct of both men, in front of the viewing world, was cringeworthy.
We talk a lot about the deteriorating level of political discourse in this country. In this case, both men had an opportunity to advance the dialogue. Instead, they made themselves part of the problem.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.