The “unique” working relationship between Sean Spicer and Jim Acosta has been rather well-documented at this point. CNN’s senior White House correspondent has called Spicer “kind of useless” as a spokesperson, has referred to certain briefings as “basically pointless,” and on June 26th, Acosta told Brooke Baldwin that covering the White House is “like we’re covering bad reality TV.”
When Pres. Trump once again referred to CNN as “fake news” while taking questions on foreign soil, Acosta, who has focused much his frustration with the administration via Twitter, tweeted that perhaps this particular event was “a fake news conference.”
Has Acosta crossed the line? It’s rare for White House correspondents to be so vocal in their frustration with the communication by a sitting administration.
“I think I’m just covering a story, honestly,” Acosta told The Washington Post. “When the president of the United States calls the press ‘fake news’ and ‘the enemy of the American people,’ ” he added, “I think that’s when you have to get tough and ask the hard questions.”
The Trump administration, and Spicer in particular, doesn’t appreciate Acosta’s style of push back, to put it mildly:
In an interview, Spicer denounced Acosta in some of the harshest terms a press secretary has used — at least in public — to refer to a reporter. “If Jim Acosta reported on Jim Acosta the way he reports on us, he’d say he hasn’t been very honest,” Spicer said. “I think he’s gone well beyond the role of reporter and steered into the role of advocate. He’s the prime example of a [reporter in a] competitive, YouTube, click-driven industry,” Spicer added. “He’s recognized that if you make a spectacle on the air then you’ll get more airtime and more clicks. . . . If I were a mainstream, veteran reporter, I’d be advocating for him to knock it off. It’s hurting the profession.”
It’s worth remembering that Acosta wasn’t exactly a favorite reporter of the Obama administration, though the adversarial relationship between Spicer-Acosta seems more contentious than that of Acosta and Obama press secretary Josh Earnest.
His questioning of Obama press secretary Josh Earnest and Obama himself was often highlighted in conservative media accounts and in Republican National Committee emails. During the IRS scandal, for instance, he asked Earnest whether the White House’s claim that it had lost important emails was like saying “the dog ate my homework.” He also pressed Obama on his characterization of the Islamic State as “the J.V. team” and the president’s contention that he hadn’t underestimated the terror organization. “Why can’t we take out these bastards?” Acosta asked.
Acosta told WaPo that while the president and the issues may have changed, he himself has not. “This is not a crusade,” he said. “This is not partisan. This is journalism. We’re trying to hold them to account.’”