White House flip-flops on Jim Acosta's suspension: From 'hands on female intern' to 'refused to surrender mic'

After CNN sued US president Donald Trump over the suspension of Jim Acosta's press credentials, the White House appears to have changed its stance on the issue. Where the administration had last week accused Acosta of placing his hands on a female intern who was trying to take the microphone from him during an argument with Trump, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday suggested that the decision was about Acosta refusing to yield the microphone while questioning the president.

A White House staff member reaches for the microphone held by CNN's Jim Acosta as he questions Donald Trump. Reuters

A White House staff member reaches for the microphone held by CNN's Jim Acosta as he questions Donald Trump. Reuters

The Washington Post quoted Sanders as saying on Tuesday:

"We have been advised that CNN has filed a complaint challenging the suspension of Jim Acosta’s hard pass. This is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.

CNN, who has nearly 50 additional hard pass holders, and Acosta is no more or less special than any other media outlet or reporter with respect to the First Amendment. After Acosta asked the President two questions — each of which the President answered — he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters.

The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolise the floor. If there is no check on this type of behaviour, it impedes the ability of the president, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.”

The statement contains no mention of Sanders' claim last week that Acosta put his hands on a female intern who tried to take the microphone back from him. Sanders on 8 November had tweeted:

Sanders later even referred to a Washington Post video, which showed the incident in slow motion, to support her claim. "The video is clear — he did (make contact with the intern). We stand by our statement," she said.

Following Sanders' claim, Acosta tweeted that her statement was "a lie." CNN said in a statement that the White House revoked Acosta's press pass out of "retaliation for his challenging questions" Wednesday, and the network accused Sanders of lying about Acosta's actions.

"(Sanders) provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better," CNN said. "Jim Acosta has our full support."

CNN has argued that this fight is not about the intern, but rather about the president's contempt for Acosta as well as the news agency.

The argument between Acosta and Trump began when the journalist asked the president about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern US border. When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Trump said, "That's enough!" and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta. He appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. Following this, he apologised, saying, "Pardon me, ma'am."

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Nov 14, 2018 15:13:57 IST

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