The Beginning of the End: The Free Press under threat!

Following an explosive and hostile press conference, the White House have barred CNN reporter Jim Acosta from doing his job and attending press events at the White House. The official reason for this is because Acosta “assaulted” a member of White House staff, but the real reason for his barring is his hard line questioning of President Trump on the issue of the migrant caravan heading towards the US through Central America.

Nor should we ignore the aggressive stance the President took when being asked relevant questions by Acosta among other reporters. Rather than acting Presidential, Trump acted like a child, attacking Acosta personally. He called Acosta a “terrible person” and it made Trump look like a man who is scared, paranoid and worried that he’s losing his grip on the power he so clearly craves. Let’s not forget, Trump called on Acosta to ask a question, albeit Acosta asked more than one, but he became very hostile when one of the question was one that he didn’t like. Being President puts you in the spotlight and undoubtedly draws critics from all sides. If you’re unable to take criticism for your actions, then being President probably isn’t the job for you.

If, and clearly this was the case, Trump didn’t like the line of questioning from Acosta, then he should’ve given a simple, diplomatic answer and moved on. Attacking him personally isn’t the right response. You come across as a bully.

Then, to make matters worse, sending a White House intern to try and wrestle the microphone from Acosta is just terrible. She looked incredibly awkward, especially when her attempts failed and she had to crouch down next to Acosta. I feel sorry for her as she was probably told to do this by Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the whole act seemed pre-meditated, which is a problem in of itself. By trying to take the microphone away, the White House was attempting to strip Acosta of his right to free speech, something he must be given as an American citizen under the Constitution. It also sets a dangerous precedent, where Trump controls the press conferences, essentially manipulating the stories that come out.

The accusation by Sarah Huckabee-Sanders that Acosta assaulted the woman by “placing his hands” on her, is, quite frankly, absurd and despicable. Acosta’s hands didn’t really touch the woman in question. If anything they brushed her arm momentarily, he didn’t “place his hands” on her. Placing his hands on her implies that he put his hands palm down upon her person, which he didn’t do, and as an act is can be seen as quite sexual. This overt sexualisation of the event is appalling behavior, it trivialises behaviour like this. This is coming from a woman who defends a man who has bragged that he assaulted women and “grabbed them by the pussy”. The accusations of assault are coming from an administration that has just concluded a very divisive campaign where they tried to disprove a group of women’s accusations of assault against a man in power, where the President referred to one of these women as a liar. Accusing Acosta on such baseless grounds trivialises assault and sends the wrong message entirely. It’s also detracting from the fact that the White House was trying to impede Jim Acosta’s First Amendment rights.

In questioning the President, Acosta was exercising his right as a journalist to free speech. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders has claimed on Twitter that Trump believes in a free press but his actions here and his rhetoric suggest the contrary. The statement she made on Twitter is itself filled with false information. In it, she claims that Trump has given the press more access than any other President, he hasn’t, he often leaves mid-press conference and only answers questions that he wants to. In banning Jim Acosta from the White House, they’re denying the press access, so therefore, he can’t be giving the media more access than any other President. Claiming that CNN have an “outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women” is laughable coming from a spokeswomen of Donald Trump. Trump’s record of treating women fairly and equally is far from exemplary, so criticism from someone representing him is absurd.

The response from Acosta’s colleagues speaks volumes. There’s been an outcry against the decision, with the White House Correspondents’ Association calling it “out of line”, “weak” and “unacceptable”. This decision by the White House only damages their already tattered reputation with the press even more, and it won’t stop the hard questioning the President receives.

It wasn’t just Acosta that Trump attacked though. Throughout the conference he went on a tirade of rants against members of the media who were gathered there. He constantly interrupted them, he jabbed his finger in the reporters’ direction, like someone chastising their dog, all with the air of a man who was about to jump down from his podium and start fighting. His actions were downright degrading, yet he won’t take in any criticism of himself or his administration, in Trump’s view, it was the press’s fault.

The Thing Is, the fact that the White House attempted to wrestle Acosta’s microphone away from him, then revoked his pass isn’t the shocking aspect of this situation. It’s the reaction from the White House and the lies coming from it. Accusing Acosta of something as serious as assault is awful behaviour from the office of the President. The President’s conduct in attacking Acosta personally, although in keeping with Trump’s past actions, isn’t how a President should act. He shouldn’t be able to pick and choose what questions he answers, and from which journalists. If he wants to be respected, then he should answer the questions put to him and explain his reasons and beliefs.

Ultimately, I’m beginning to fear for the freedom of the press in the United States under the Trump administration. The situation is becoming more and more autocratic, with Trump and his cronies trying to control the press conferences and their images in the media so that it’s beneficial to them. It’s damaging their reputation, whatever they had left of it. But more importantly, it’s also damaging the integrity of the Constitution, something that President Trump is meant to protect and uphold.

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