Dear Diary: Jim Acosta Doesn’t Waste His Chance to Cause a Scene in the Briefing Room

After what must have been an insanely painful 42 days for the White House press corps, Monday afternoon featured a White House press briefing and, needless to say, carnival barker, CNN chief White House correspondent, and infamous newsman Jim Acosta made sure to make this briefing count.

Acosta used his allotted two minutes as best he could, tussling with Press Secretary Sarah Sanders over the Democratic Party’s issues with Jewish people and the President’s rhetoric as a source of what ills America.

 

 

He led off his questions by, well, making it about his own news organization at CNN by asking whether President Trump “ask[ed] Gary Cohen to intervene or block AT&T's merger with Time Warner” to which Sanders replied that she wasn’t “aware of any conversation” about it.

It was here that Acosta decried the President’s comments about the left becoming a safe haven for anti-Semitism, ruling that it’s the “kind of rhetoric” that’s “just sort of beneath everybody.” Acosta then went on a brief civility lecture to Sanders, who wasn’t having it (click “expand”):

ACOSTA: And do you think that the president has thought at all going into this 2020 campaign that the rhetoric just needs to be lowered, whether it’s talking about Democrats, the media, immigrants. Or should we just plan on hearing the President use the same kind of language that we heard in 2016 and all through the first couple years of his administration? 

SANDERS: Look, I think that the real shame in all of this is that Democrats are perfectly capable of coming together and agreeing on the fact that they're comfortable ripping babies straight from their mother’s womb or killing a baby after birth, but they have a hard time condemning the type of comments from Congresswoman Omar. I think that is a great shame. The President has been clear on what his position is. Certainly, what his support is for the people and the community of Israel and beyond that I don't have any further. 

ACOSTA: Don’t you think that just sort of drags down the rhetoric and the debate when you're saying something that's patently untrue. I mean, obviously —

SANDERS: I think stating their policy positions is not patently untrue.

ACOSTA: — but Democrats don't hate Jewish people. That's just silly. It's not true. 

Sanders tried to move to April Ryan, but Acosta tried to keep a hold of the spotlight by bringing up the President’s Charlottesville comments. The Press Secretary put out that fire and only then did Acosta relent.

Afterward, on CNN Newsroom, Acosta uncorked another long-winded, uninterrupted lecture about his dismay for what comes out of the White House. Here is the portion dealing with the Democrats being “anti-Jewish” (click “expand”):

I think this issue of the President referring to Democrats as anti-Jewish or hating Jewish people, I mean, I think that just naturally is going to dredge up some of his own questions from his past. You know, the days after Charlottesville when he said that there were very fine people on both sides down in Charlottesville. I mean, that is a comment that's just going to live on forever no matter what they say here at the White House and I do think it's important to say and not even put it in the form of a question, that obviously, Democrats don't hate Jewish people. I mean, that is just a silly thing to say, but it just goes to where we're headed I think over the next you know, 18 to 24 months, Brooke. We are in for probably, it's astonishing I think to say this and to hear it and so on, but we're in for the nastiest campaign we've ever seen in our lifetimes coming up in 2020 and I wanted to ask, you know, whether or not the President plans on tamping down the rhetoric because, as we all know, you know, he is — he is largely responsible for this driving down of our political discourse. You know, going out and making speeches saying Democrats are hating Jewish people. I mean, that just goes to pushing people's buttons in ways that you know the President of the United States really shouldn't be engaged in doing. 

Acosta had a lead-in of sorts during the briefing on that topic. ABC’s Jonathan Karl was first to ask Sanders questions during her portion (see transcript below) and then NBC’s Hallie Jackson did the same. 

In Jackson’s case, Sanders again put the onus on the left, noting that “they've had a lot of opportunities over the last few weeks to condemn some abhorrent comments,” but have avoided doing so and instead passing the watered-down resolution about various forms of hate instead of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic comments.

Jackson cut Sanders off and so Sanders responded in kind: “I'm trying to answer you. If you stop talking, I'll finish my statement.” 

Ah, yes. Clashes in the briefing room. It’s been a while since we had one of those!

To see the relevant transcript from March 11's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin and the White House press briefing, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
March 11, 2019
2:31 p.m. Eastern

JONATHAN KARL: Sarah, the President — the President said that Democrats hate Jewish people, according to a recent report. We've also seen him tweet in the last couple of days that Democrats are the “anti-Jewish party.” Does the president really believe Democrats hate Jews? 

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Look, the President's been an unwavering and committed ally to Israel and the Jewish people and frankly, the remarks that have been made by a number of Democrats and fail to be called out by Democratic leadership is, frankly, abhorrent and sad and it's something that should be called by name. It shouldn't be put in a watered down resolution. It should be done the way the Republicans did it when Steve King made terrible comments. We called it out by name. We stripped him of committee memberships and we'd like to see Democrats follow suit. 

KARL: But — but — I ask. First of all, you mentioned Steve King. The president, correct me if I'm wrong, has not condemned Steve King

SANDERS: I —

KARL: He was praising white supremacy. Has the President come out publicly and said anything to criticize or condemn —

SANDERS: I speak on behalf of the President on a number of topics and I’ve talked about that a number of times and I’d refer you back to those comments where I used words like abhorrent and unacceptable.

(....)

2:37 p.m. Eastern

HALLIE JACKSON: I have a question for you but I also have a follow-up to a colleague because I didn't hear you answer the question. Yes or no. Does the president truly believe Democrats hate Jews? 

SANDERS: I am not going to comment on potentially-leaked [INAUDIBLE] — I can tell you what —

JACKSON: I’m not asking about that. Does he — does he think Democrats hate Jewish people as he said on the South Lawn? 

SANDERS: I think they've had a lot of opportunities over the last few weeks to condemn some abhorrent comments — 

JACKSON: But I’m asking the president specifically.

SANDERS: — I'm trying to answer you. If you stop talking, I'll finish my statement.

JACKSON: Yes or no?

SANDERS: The President has had and laid out clearly his position on this matter. Democrats have had a number of opportunities to condemn specific comments and have refused to do that. That's a question, frankly, I think you should ask Democrats what their position is. Since they're unwilling to call this what it is and call it out by name and take actual action against members who have done things like this like the Republicans have done when they had the same opportunity. 

JACKSON: So I want to ask you about Paul Manafort, but I just want to be very clear. You're not answering the question. Is there a reason? 

SANDERS: I believe I answered it twice. 

JACKSON: You didn’t say yes or no. Does he really believe Democrats hate Jews? I’m just trying to get a sense of that. 

SANDERS: I think that's a question you’ll have ask the Democrats. 

(....)

2:40 p.m. Eastern

JIM ACOSTA: Yes. Did the President ask Gary Cohen to intervene or block AT&T's merger with Time Warner? 

SANDERS: I'm not aware of any conversation on that matter. 

ACOSTA: And just to get back to Jon and Hallie’s question about the president's comments about Democrats and Jewish people, isn't that kind of rhetoric just sort of beneath everybody? And do you think that the president has thought at all going into this 2020 campaign that the rhetoric just needs to be lowered, whether it’s talking about Democrats, the media, immigrants. Or should we just plan on hearing the President use the same kind of language that we heard in 2016 and all through the first couple years of his administration? 

SANDERS: Look, I think that the real shame in all of this is that Democrats are perfectly capable of coming together and agreeing on the fact that they're comfortable ripping babies straight from their mother’s womb or killing a baby after birth, but they have a hard time condemning the type of comments from Congresswoman Omar. I think that is a great shame. The President has been clear on what his position is. Certainly, what his support is for the people and the community of Israel and beyond that I don't have any further. 

ACOSTA: Don’t you think that just sort of drags down the rhetoric and the debate when you're saying something that's patently untrue. I mean, obviously —

SANDERS: I think stating their policy positions is not patently untrue.

ACOSTA: — but Democrats don't hate Jewish people. That's just silly. It's not true. So —

SANDERS: I think they should call out their numbers by name and we’ve made that clear. I don’t have anything further. April? 

ACOSTA: The President — but the President — 

APRIL RYAN: Sarah — 

ACOSTA: — you know, he —

SANDERS: I’m sorry, Jim. April, go ahead.

ACOSTA: — he — his rhetoric after Charlottesville saying that there are very fine people on both sides in Charlottesville, essentially suggesting there are very fine people in the Nazis, you know?

SANDERS: That's not at all what the president was stating. 

ACOSTA: Well, but — but —

SANDERS: Not then, not at any point. The president has been incredibly clear and consistently and repeatedly condemned hatred, bigotry, racism in all of its forms, whether it's in America or anywhere else and to say otherwise is simply untrue. 

(....)

CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin
March 11, 2019
2:52 p.m. Eastern

ACOSTA: I think this issue of the President referring to Democrats as anti-Jewish or hating Jewish people, I mean, I think that just naturally is going to dredge up some of his own questions from his past. You know, the days after Charlottesville when he said that there were very fine people on both sides down in Charlottesville. I mean, that is a comment that's just going to live on forever no matter what they say here at the White House and I do think it's important to say and not even put it in the form of a question, that obviously, Democrats don't hate Jewish people. I mean, that is just a silly thing to say, but it just goes to where we're headed I think over the next you know, 18 to 24 months, Brooke. We are in for probably, it's astonishing I think to say this and to hear it and so on, but we're in for the nastiest campaign we've ever seen in our lifetimes coming up in 2020 and I wanted to ask, you know, whether or not the President plans on tamping down the rhetoric because, as we all know, you know, he is — he is largely responsible for this driving down of our political discourse. You know, going out and making speeches saying Democrats are hating Jewish people. I mean, that just goes to pushing people's buttons in ways that you know the President of the United States really shouldn't be engaged in doing. 


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