On Thursday, a major journalism organization denounced CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s behavior during a press conference earlier this week.
Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride, both faculty at the Poynter Institute in Florida, said Acosta’s actions — which included challenging the president’s answers to his questions — didn’t “represent the best of journalism.”
The two noted how after Acosta asked a series of questions, he started to make statements. “Acosta’s questions ended and his statements began.”
“Press conferences can be high stakes because they are frequently an attempt to control the message,” the two wrote in their post. “Reporters who prepare with neutral questions avoid revealing bias or creating unnecessary conflict.”
When an intern attempted to take the microphone away from Acosta, he seemed to push away her arm — an incident that prompted press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to suspend his press pass.
Watch the incident below:
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF: Did @Acosta "plac[e] his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a @WhiteHouse intern," as @PressSec claims? Here’s the video of the exchange being used as pretext to suspend @Acosta's credentials. pic.twitter.com/3ku9C2iBrk
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) November 8, 2018
“Things got uncomfortable when Acosta refused to turn over the microphone to an intern who reached out to remove it from him, and then stood up to continue his banter without the microphone,” McBride and Tompkins said.
After indicating that Acosta turned the presser into a “cable news wrestling match,” McBride and Tompkins argued that Acosta should have “handed over the microphone.”
The two disagreed, however, with the White House’s assertion that Acosta somehow “manhandled the intern,” an accusation they said made them wonder if the White House was looking to pick a fight.
“President Trump deftly used the Acosta incident to play the victim of unfair press treatment,” they said. “Journalists should not give more fuel to such accusations. Ask tough questions, avoid making statements or arguing during a press event and report the news, don’t become the news.”
Both Sanders and Trump refused to back down amid criticism of their decision.
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
While speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump called Acosta “very unprofessional” and decried the way he treated Sanders during press briefings.
Trump breaks silence on Jim Acosta and his press pass being taken away:
“I think Jim Acosta’s a very unprofessional man. He does that with everybody. He gets paid to do that…I don’t think he’s a smart person… But it could be others, also.” pic.twitter.com/yhjWCHgkeI
— Caleb Hull 🎅🏼🌲🎁 (@CalebJHull) November 9, 2018
“If you’ve ever seen him dealing with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it’s a disgrace,” Trump said of Acosta.
Acosta did, however, receive support from the Society of Professional Journalists. In a press release, the group said it stood in solidarity with Acosta and argued Trump did a “disservice to democracy” by demeaning journalists.
“This isn’t the first time his administration has taken credentials away from journalists. This sends the message to state and local elected officials that it is OK to ban certain journalists from press conferences and other events. Politicians denying access to reporters as a way to control who covers them is a violation of the First Amendment and is detrimental to our society and those around the world. We strongly urge the White House to reinstate Acosta’s credentials immediately.”
Both SPJ and the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) indicated that the White House made the decision because Acosta asked tough questions.
“Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the President,” the WHCA said.
“Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions. We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”