Flagged down by our friends at the Daily Wire, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett did his best to not directly condemn CNN counterpart Jim Acosta while speaking Friday to WMAL host and Washington Times editor Larry O'Connor. Nonetheless, Garrett noted that that “a standard of conduct and expected behavior” exists between White House correspondents which, based on his answers, would place Acosta outside that.
Even though Acosta has been the focus of much media attention regarding his behavior during White House press conferences, the CNN correspondent has rarely been criticized by other people in the media because they don’t want to “critique other journalists” as they go about doing their jobs their own ways.
O’Connor told Garrett that he didn't “want you to critique one of your colleagues there in the press room” but rather dig into “a broader question” concerning “a standard of conduct, there is [an] expected behavior from a White House correspondent that I think all of you would agree upon, right?”
Garrett had an interesting reply: “There is -- no question about it. It’s the most majestic political place in America, the White House. The only place second to that in my experience where I spent almost 15 years [is] the United States Congress.”
The former Fox News correspondent explained that covering Congress is “a little bit more rough and tumble” and even though the White House can have that same vibe: “It is a place of institutional heft and commands institutional respect.”
Appearing to harken back to an October 1 Rose Garden press conference, Garrett recalled how, when he was called on: “[T]he President looked at me; I thought he called on me. I stood up, the White House aide handed me the microphone.”
“I began to speak to the President of the United States,” but Trump looked at him and said: “No, behind you. Kaitlan [Collins],” with CNN.
“So I said: ‘Oh,’ and what did I do? I handed back the microphone,” Garrett stated before adding:
Now, some of my colleagues might say: “What [did] you do that for? You had the microphone; you have a voice; you can speak.” The President of the United States said “not you.” To my way of thinking, that's enough.
“I didn't get a question that press conference,” he noted. “Some might say: ‘Well, you laid down,’ and ‘you were too deferential.’ I don't feel that way.”
“So I deferred, hoping he might call on me again,” Garrett noted. “He didn't,” but “that's how I orient myself to an institution.”
“The person who occupies that institution is chosen by the country,” he continued, “and I respect the institution and the country's choice, and I'm there to -- on behalf of everyone -- ask questions and, most importantly, Larry, get answers.”
Expanding more broadly to the issue of journalistic decorum, Garrett opined that “all of these questions are best resolved through the political channels that our country has long developed and long relied upon, and that's why.…I do my level best to not put myself or make myself part of the story, and I think the best journalists operate that way.” How sensible!
Garrett then went back to his most important point, which was that the entire point of asking questions of presidents is “to inform the public of what they have not yet learned.”
As NewsBusters previously reported, Garrett’s experience with FNC led him to counter other CBS reporters in early November, when they claimed that Donald Trump was the first president to battle with a journalistic outlet. Instead, he pointed to when former President Barack Obama's administration “demonized” FNC and went to “war” with the outlet.
Apparently, Acosta could learn a thing or two from Garrett when it comes to taking part in press conferences -- even though that means the CNN correspondent might never get his own program on that cable network.