Trump, CNN’s Acosta Throw Down over Fake News, Media Coverage; ‘You’re Undermining’ Us!

During President Trump’s marathon news conference on Thursday, there was a lengthy duel with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta over whether CNN hates the President, CNN’s ratings, WikiLeaks, fake news, and who to blame for the American public’s lack of confidence in the news media.

Trump had alluded to CNN throughout the event before arriving at Acosta. When it was his turn, the CNN correspondent stated: “Just for the record, we don't hate you. I don't hate you. I just want to pass that along.”

The President shot back that Acosta should ask boss Jeff Zucker “how he got his job” (considering the history the two have at NBC) and then knocked CNN for not having ratings that measure up to “some of the other people that are waiting.”

Acosta argued that “[t]hey're pretty good right now, actually, Mr. President” before going onto his first question:

ACOSTA: But if I may ask, sir, you said earlier that we Wikileaks was revealing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the election cycle. You welcomed that at one campaign rally. You said you loved Wikileaks. At another campaign press conference, you called on the Russians to find the missing 30,000 e-mails. I'm wondering, sir if —

TRUMP: Well, she’s actually missing 33,000 and then it got extended with a whole —

ACOSTA: Maybe my numbers are off a bit too.

TRUMP: No, no, but I did say 30 but it was actually higher. 

ACOSTA: If I may ask you, sir, it sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes leaking if that is something that you encouraged during the campaign. 

The CNN correspondent tried to ramble, but Trump stopped him and answered that first question with jabs to the media. Not surprisingly, Acosta willingly took the President’s bait (as he did at a previous press conference) and decided to spend the rest of his time talking about his profession.

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“And if I may follow up that, just something that Jonathan Karl was asking you about. You said that the leaks are real but the news is fake. I guess I don't understand. It seems as that there's a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake,” Acosta wondered.

A few minutes later, Acosta began shouting at Trump and the President chuckled to NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander: “Should I let him have a little more? What do you think, Peter? Peter, should I let him have a little bit more. Sit down. Sit down. We’ll work with this. We'll get it.”

It was here that Acosta and Trump tussled:

ACOSTA: Just because the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I just want to ask you, sir — 

TRUMP: I'm changing it from fake news though.

ACOSTA: Doesn’t that undermine —

TRUMP: Very fake news. 

ACOSTA: — but aren't you —

TRUMP: Go ahead. 

ACOSTA: Real news, Mr. President. Real news.

Acosta grew hostile, whining that Trump himself is “undermining” the First Amendment and the journalism profession (and nothing the news media have done): “Aren't you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, the press in this country when you call stories you don't like fake news. Why not just say it's a story I don't like.”

The President stated that he does call out stories he doesn’t like, but Acosta concluded his time with one last grievance: “When you call it fake news, you're undermining confidence in our news media.”

Acosta unloading blame onto Trump for causing an erosion of trust in the media incredibly short-sighted. The media’s poll numbers have been plummeting for well over a decade and the whole reason why sites like this one exist in the first place. 

Whether it’s Brian Williams, Dan Rather, near unanimous anti-Trump coverage or even something more minute like falling for a fake Mike Flynn Twitter account, there’s a whole great deal of blame to be shoveled in the direction of the media.

Earlier in the news conference, Trump seemed to muddy the waters on how his electoral college victory stood in comparison to recent history and so Alexander took it upon himself to correct the President. 

In the process, however, Alexander used that to question whether the American people should really trust anything Trump tells them: 

So why should Americans trust you — so, I guess my question is why should Americans trust you when you have accused the information they’ve received as being fake when you're providing information that is fake.

On this case, it’s particularly rich that the media seized on something small like this and extrapolated that to hint that Trump’s not credible. NewsBusters contributing writer Jeffrey Lord had this to say about Alexander’s question later that afternoon on CNN: 

I think it was a simple mistake and Jake, again in fairness, I think this is the problem that so many people had with the news media is that they’ll zero in on some nitpicking thing like that and make a major event out of it. 

Here are the relevant portions of the transcript from February 15's White House Presidential News Conference: 

White House Presidential News Conference
February 16, 2017
1:28 p.m. Eastern

PETER ALEXANDER (MSNBC/NBC): You said today that you have the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan, 304 — 306 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 in 2008 —

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I’m talking about Republicans.

ALEXANDER: President Obama, 332 and George H.W. Bush 426 when he won as President. So why should Americans trust you — 

TRUMP: No, I was given that information. I don’t know. I was just given. We had a very, very big margin.

ALEXANDER: So, I guess my question is why should Americans trust you when you have accused the information they’ve received as being fake when you're providing information that is fake.

(....)

JIM ACOSTA (CNN): Just for the record, we don't hate you. I don't hate you. I just want to pass that along. 

TRUMP: Ask — ask Jeff Zucker how he got his job, okay?

ACOSTA: If I may follow up on some of the questions that have taken place so far here, sir, and I don't know which microphone to hold here. I've got three microphones. 

TRUMP: You do have other people and your ratings aren't as good as some of the other people that are waiting.

ACOSTA: They're pretty good right now, actually, Mr. President. 

TRUMP: Go ahead.

ACOSTA: But if I may ask, sir, you said earlier that we Wikileaks was revealing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the election cycle. You welcomed that at one campaign rally. You said you loved Wikileaks. At another campaign press conference, you called on the Russians to find the missing 30,000 e-mails. I'm wondering, sir if —

TRUMP: Well, she’s actually missing 33,000 and then it got extended with a whole —

ACOSTA: Maybe my numbers are off a bit too.

TRUMP: No, no, but I did say 30 but it was actually higher. 

ACOSTA: If I may ask you, sir, it sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes leaking if that is something that you encouraged during the campaign. 

TRUMP: Fair question. Ready?

ACOSTA: If I may ask you that —

TRUMP: No, but let me do one at a time. Do you mind? 

ACOSTA: If I may ask a follow-up — yes, sir.  

(....)

ACOSTA: And if I may follow up that, just something that Jonathan Karl was asking you about. You said that the leaks are real but the news is fake. I guess I don't understand. It seems as that there's a disconnect there. If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake? 

TRUMP: The reporting is fake. 

ACOSTA: And I just want to ask —

(....)

ACOSTA: If I may just one more follow-up because of this — 

TRUMP [TO ALEXANDER]: Should I let him have a little more? What do you think, Peter? Peter, should I let him have a little bit more. Sit down. Sit down. We’ll work with this. We'll get it. 

ACOSTA: Just because the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I just want to ask you, sir — 

TRUMP: I'm changing it from fake news though.

ACOSTA: Doesn’t that undermine —

TRUMP: Very fake news. 

ACOSTA: — but aren't you —

TRUMP: Go ahead. 

ACOSTA: Real news, Mr. President. Real news.

TRUMP: And you're not related to our new -- 

ACOSTA: I am not related, sir. No. I do like the sound of Secretary Acosta. I must say.

TRUMP: You know, I looked at that name. I said, wait a minute. Is there any relation there? Alex Acosta. 

ACOSTA: I'm sure you checked that out. 

TRUMP: No. I checked it. I said — they said, no, sir. I said, do me a favor Go back and check the family tree, okay? 

ACOSTA: Aren't you concerned, sir, that you are undermining the people's faith in the First Amendment, freedom of the press, the press in this country when you call stories you don't like fake news. Why not just say it's a story I don't like. 

TRUMP: I do. 

ACOSTA: When you call it fake news, you're undermining confidence in our news media.

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