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The Atlantic’s Todd Purdum wrote a largely critical story yesterday about CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He writes that while Acosta may be speaking truth to power–an notable example being the recent “enemy of the people” press briefing–his brand of “performance journalism” could be dangerous.
Purdum makes clear that he “is loath” to criticize Acosta. He, himself, was a White House correspondent for the New York Times during the Clinton years. But he feels Acosta may be feeding into Trump’s “narrative about a hostile, combative and even unfair press.”
The last thing Donald Trump – or the press, or the public – needs is another convenient villain in the performative arena of the long-running reality show that is his administration. Acosta’s broadside blurs the line between reporting and performance – between work and war – at a time when journalists have a greater obligation than ever to demonstrate that what they do is real, and matters – and is not just part of the passing show.
Some consider Acosta an aggressive reporter who just wants the truth. He was considered by many in the Obama administration to be a nuisance, and some feel he is showing that same consistency now. Being a thorn in an administration’s side isn’t necessarily a bad trait to have as a political reporter.
But Acosta has his detractors who think he is overly aggressive in his questioning of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and her predecessor Sean Spicer, and that he’s biased against the Trump administration, in general.
Those same critics think he’s making himself the story, something most reporters say they don’t want to be the case.
President Trump–who has referred to the press as “the enemy of the people” before–has admonished Acosta in public more than once. He told Acosta “I don’t take questions from CNN” during a joint presser with Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump also yelled at Acosta to get out during a Oval Office photo opp back in January. Those are just two of many instances of conflict.
But the president also referred to Acosta as “a nice guy” in a recent tweet.
Many of Trump’s most die-hard supporters, which include cable news hosts, don’t like how Acosta covers the president. He has been an object of threats and taunts at Trump rallies across the country, including a particularly rough one last month in Tampa.
But whatever one thinks of Acosta, it’s tough to argue that he’s the most talked-about reporter covering the White House today.