Since the beginning of the Trump administration, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta had become infamous for his out of control shouting, grandstanding, and childish antics during press briefings and other televised White House events. So, during a special appearance on the network’s Reliable Sources, Acosta defending his actions and at one point proclaimed that if he was sent to Hell, “I'll still be shouting at the Devil, is the way I look at it.”
With all the seriousness of a puff piece, host Brian Stelter began the segment by rhetorically asking, “Is he a reporter willing to shout out tough questions or someone grandstanding to boost his own profile?” After playing some clips of his colleague fighting with the administration, Stelter wondered, “So what is it like to be Jim Acosta? What is it like to come face-to-face with angry Trump supporters at rallies? Let’s ask him.”
The pair started by discussing Acosta’s recent attendance at a Trump rally in South Carolina where he was heckled by Trump supports and told to “go home, Jim” while someone held up a sign that read “CNN sucks.” Acosta told Stelter that people were actually really nice once they started talking to him one-on-one. Acosta insisted their opinions about him and CNN were corrupted and warped by Fox News.
“And by and large, what I find is that people are developing their impressions of us by watching Hannity and so on,” he asserted. Of course, Stelter agreed and said “pro-Trump media calls you fake news,” a “drama queen.” He also claimed to have written down instances where they used “slurs” and “curse words” against his colleague but refused to cite them.
Stelter pressed Acosta on the main complaint from his critics: That he acts that way for attention:
Point is, though, when you're in the back of the room like you were on Friday and you shout a question to Trump and he probably can't even hear it, isn't it true that you're kind of doing that just to get attention?
Acosta was shouting questions at Trump about changing his rhetoric about the press given the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper (as if Trump had anything to do with it). Acosta recalled the event but asserted it happened during “a moment towards the end of that event when he was walking towards us. And I thought, ‘well here's a chance to perhaps shout a question to him.’”
But that’s not true. The video shows that Trump was still towards the front of the room when Acosta started yelling. As the Federalist’s James Hasson put it on Twitter, “You yelled from the other side of a crowded room full of clapping people, you hack.”
Of course, Stelter did omit criticism from former CNN producer Steve Krakauer, who described the CNN correspondent’s actions on Friday as “truly an embarrassment, on multiple levels.” “Jim Acosta’s self-serving antics give all good journalists a bad name,” he added.
Acosta was acting all self-righteous earlier that same day for shouting those same questions and claiming the President refused to answer them. In reality, the President was across the White House lawn and Marine One’s rotors were still roaring.
“Now, of course, if they're not going to take our questions we have to find opportunities to ask those questions,” Acosta indignantly proclaimed. “Kind of like Sam Donaldson did decades ago,” Stelter added, exaggerating Acosta’s relevance.
The relevant portions of the transcript are below, click "expand" to read:
July 1, 2018
11:33:10 AM Eastern [47 seconds]
BRIAN STELTER: Is he a reporter willing to shout out tough questions or someone grandstanding to boost his own profile? CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta has become the face of the Trump administration's combative relationship with the press.
STELTER: Trump, as you know, has escalated his anti-press rhetoric. First it was “fake news”, then it was enemy of the people, now he’s saying some of our behavior is almost treasonist. So what is it like to be Jim Acosta? What is it like to come face-to-face with angry Trump supporters at rallies? Let’s ask him.
11:35:11 AM Eastern [1 minute 18 seconds]
JIM ACOSTA: When you have that one-on-one interaction, that kind of conversation, people tend to let some of those biases, some of those prejudices that they've developed from watching Fox News and so on to break away and you can have a real conversation.
STELTER: Speaking of Fox, we took a look at what happens when you shout questions at either the President or others. Let’s take a look first at the video.
STELTER: When you yell questions, Jim, Fox News, and others attack you -- we can show some of the examples-- for having an outburst, for asking harsh questions, for grandstanding. These are some of the headlines from foxnews.com.
STELTER: Why do you think there's so much resentment or criticism of the way you do this?
ACOSTA: Well, to some extent, you know, the President and Fox News, they don't have Barack Obama around anymore. They don't have Hillary Clinton. Although, the President goes after Hillary Clinton a lot, so does Fox News. And so, we’ve sort of replaced Obama and Hillary. They need somebody to attack. I think that we've sort of filled that role. Part of the issue is that I think, you know, instead of wanting to focus on the President's behavior, they'd rather focus on our reporting on the President's behavior.
11:36:58 AM Eastern [1 minute 57 Seconds]
ACOSTA: So we spend a lot of our time spinning our wheels calling out his falsehoods. That consumes a lot of the coverage. And I think it presents to the American people is this sense that all we're doing all day long is bashing the President when, in fact, we have to be fact-checkers. And so, we spend a lot of time simply just fact-checking the President.
STELTER: And fact-checking sounds like bashing to a part of the population.
ACOSTA: That's right. And I think, you know, listen. There are folks on the conservative side of the spectrum in the media. You know, I refer to them affectionately as the MAGA-phone. They by and large just echo what the President wants to hear and what he wants to say. We see that a lot happening over on Fox News. I told people at that rally on Monday night in Columbia, listen we're not just going to do the news for the Republicans. We have to do the news for everybody. You may not like what you hear all the time. The question I ask to a lot of people at that rally was, “are you forming your conclusions on what we do based on watching CNN or watching other networks, our rivals and so on, and their coverage of what we do?”
STELTER: That’s a great point.
ACOSTA: And by and large, what I find is that people are developing their impressions of us by watching Hannity and so on. And I said, “Hey, give us a chance. Watch us and then make up your own mind.”
STELTER: Yeah, the pro-Trump media calls you fake news. They say you’re a drama queen. I wrote down some of the slurs – some of them I can’t read because they’re curse words. Point is, though, when you're in the back of the room like you were on Friday and you shout a question to Trump and he probably can't even hear it, isn't it true that you're kind of doing that just to get attention?
STELTER: Isn't that part of what you're doing?
ACOSTA: On Friday when I was shouting that question, I thought, first of all, he keeps calling us the enemy of the people. Somebody ought to ask him after what happened in Annapolis, “are you going to continue to call us the enemy of the people?” And so, they had an event, they put him all the way on the other side of the room. But there was a moment towards the end of that event when he was walking towards us. And I thought, well here's a chance to perhaps shout a question to him. And we have seen on occasion, when we shout questions he does answer the questions. So, it’s not unreasonable to ask that question.
11:39:25 AM Eastern [
ACOSTA: Now, of course, if they're not going to take our questions we have to find opportunities to ask those questions.
STELTER: Kind of like Sam Donaldson did decades ago.
ACOSTA: That's right. Listen, if they want to send me to Hell, I'll still be shouting at the devil, is the way I look at it. We have a job to do. I've said this times before and I'll say it again. They can kick us out of the briefing room, out of the White House. We're still going to do our jobs. And my attitude is that we fill a necessary role in our democracy. The rest of the world is watching us. They don't understand how the President can call us fake news and the enemy of the people. My response to all that is, my goodness, are we supposed to sit back and no do nothing? Are we supposed to not push back when we’re treading in that fashion? And my sense of it is that you have to push back.