White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday got into a heated spat with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta and defended President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
During a press briefing at the White House, Acosta asked about Ronny Jackson, the White House physician nominated to head the VA. Acosta claimed that Trump admitted on Tuesday that Jackson doesn’t have enough experience the lead the department, and Sanders shot him down immediately.
“That’s not what the president said. I think you’re taking some of his words out of context,” Sanders retorted. “Based on your tweet today I know you don’t appreciate when people take your words out of context. So I’d appreciate if you not do that to the president.”
Check out Sanders’ exchange with Acosta below:
The press secretary was referring to Acosta’s earlier tweet in which he called out news outlets for “twisting” his words during an interview about threats to journalism.
Sanders went on to defend Jackson, explaining that Trump had only mentioned his lack of experience as an unfounded reason for his opponents to attack the administration’s vetting process.
“[Jackson] has an incredibly strong background,” she said. “He is a highly-qualified, highly-skilled individual. If [Trump] didn’t think he was capable of doing the job, he wouldn’t have announced his nomination in the first place.”
But Acosta wasn’t ready to lay down over the press secretary’s personal jab, and he went on to ask a follow-up question about the U.S. being downgraded on a ranking of freedom of the press around the world.
“Just since you brought up being taken out of context. It seems to be a press-related question. Are you trying to say that this administration is a champion of a free press?” he asked.
Sanders responded by saying the government certainly supports a free press, but she emphasized that it also expects a “fair press” that takes responsibility “to report accurate information.”
But she didn’t stop there. The press secretary continued by unleashing a scathing criticism of the media, echoing Trump’s habit of bashing outlets like CNN.
In an off-handed jab at Acosta, and after shutting him down as he tried to interrupt (“I’m not finished!”), Sanders said she supports the press and works to provide accurate information despite overly aggressive reporters.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m standing here taking your questions,” she said. “Lot of times taking your questions in a tone that’s completely unnecessary, unneeded and frankly doesn’t help further the conversation or help the American people get any more information in a better way which is your job and my job and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
After the briefing, Acosta took to Twitter once again in an effort to set the record straight about the comments from Trump that he was asking about:
Hey @presssec what did I take out of context? Here’s what Trump said about Jackson: “I’ve gotten to know him pretty well. He’s a great doctor. And it was a suggestion. Now, I know there’s an experience problem because of lack of experience. But there’s an experience problem.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) April 25, 2018
Jackson faces allegations of workplace misconduct including drinking on the job and overprescription of medication.
Sanders continuously voiced the Trump administration’s support for Jackson despite the allegations, and she explained that he’s been through an extensive vetting process and has received glowing reports of praise from everyone who knows him.