Asking tough questions of those in power is as fundamental to our democracy as voting says The NYT Ed. Board. With the suspension of CNN’s Acosta’s credentials, “Trump has signaled that in his view, asking hard questions, the most basic function of a reporter, disqualifies journalists from attending White House briefings.” Claiming that Acosta “put his hands on a young woman” is not only demonstrably false, Trump has praised physical aggression like Rep. Gianforte’s assault on a reporter.
- Should a president be able to handle tough aggressive questions?
- Has Trump praised physical aggression in the past?
- Was Jim Acosta just doing his job?
Relations between the president and the press have always been nettlesome, as they should be. The role of the news media in questioning and challenging power is as fundamental to democracy as the ballot. But even though past mad presidents have found reporters, none has wandered beyond accepted borders as President Trump.
Granted, suspending the White House press credential of CNN’s Jim Acosta may not seem to rank high in the catalog of outrage that Mr. Trump has filled, especially on the heels of a midterm election in which the president’s demagogy played so central a role and coinciding as it did with his forcing the resignation of an attorney general who dared put law and propriety above craven loyalty.
Mr. Trump has amply demonstrated his inability to deal with criticism or tough questions in any way other than to immediately, angrily and crudely counterattack. Mr. Acosta has regularly provoked the president to fury, and he did so again on Wednesday with questions about the Central American migrant “caravan” and the Russia investigation.
Anger is one thing, but in suspending Mr. Acosta’s press credential, Mr. Trump signaled that in his view, asking hard questions – the most basic function of a reporter – disqualifies journalists from attending White House briefings. That Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, would then use the demonstrably false claim that Mr. Acosta had laid “his hands on a young woman” as a pretext to throw him out compounds the cynicism.
If Ms. Sanders was so offended by that physical contact, what did she have to say when her boss praised as “my kind of guy” Representative Greg Gianforte of Montana, who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last spring?