Jim Acosta Sets Up Puerto Rico Governor to Call Trump a 'Bully'

March 29th, 2019 3:29 PM

CNN's Jim Acosta interviewed Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, focusing on his efforts to secure disaster relief for the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria. During the interview, Acosta could not resist asking Rossello a leading question; namely if he thought he was “dealing with a bully” in President Trump. Rossello took the bait, warning that “if the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.”

Shortly before airing excerpts on the interview, CNN Newsroom host Brooke Baldwin opened the segment by noting that “tensions are escalating between the Governor of Puerto Rico and President Trump.” Baldwin cheerfully prepared her audience for some anti-Trump red meat: “in this exclusive CNN interview, the Governor of Puerto Rico is giving a clear warning to President Trump.”

The CNN host proceeded to play a clip of Acosta’s sit down with Rossello, where Acosta asked him “Does it feel that way sometimes? That you’re dealing with a bully?” Acosta was obviously referring to President Trump. Rossello, who has resisted the urge to bash the President in the past, seemed to agree with Acosta that President Trump is a bully: “if the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.”



Rather than push back on Rossello, as Acosta always does when President Trump makes less straightforward comments criticizing the media, the CNN journalist merely asked an extremely weak follow-up question: “just like that?” Rossello responded, “just like that…it would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.”

Following the conclusion of that clip, Baldwin spoke to Acosta live, as he reported from the White House. Acosta noted that the Governor was “here in Washington trying to promote this idea of Puerto Rican statehood.”

After her brief conversation with Acosta, Baldwin played a second clip of his interview with the Puerto Rico Governor, where he asked Rossello another leading question: “Do you think the President treats people of Puerto Rico as citizens?” Rossello surely delighted the anti-Trump journalist in his answer by declaring that he “treats us as second-class citizens.”

Acosta is hardly the first CNN personality to accuse President Trump of viewing Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens. Last year, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin suggested that “these people who died, apparently thousands of them in Puerto Rico…they’re not white people. And they don’t count to Donald Trump as much as the deaths of white people.” 

A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s edition of CNN Newsroom is below. Click “expand” to read more.

CNN Newsroom With Brooke Baldwin


03:38 PM

BROOKE BALDWIN: Tensions are escalating between the governor of Puerto Rico and President Trump. During a closed-door meeting with Republicans, President Trump complained about the amount of disaster relief going to the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria and in this exclusive CNN interview, the Governor of Puerto Rico is giving a clear warning to President Trump.


JIM ACOSTA: Does it feel that way sometimes? That you’re dealing with a bully?

GOVERNOR RICARDO ROSSELLO: If, if the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth.

ACOSTA: Just like that?

ROSSELLO: Just like that. I don’t, don’t…it would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.


BALDWIN: It has been a delicate dance for this Governor as he continues to push for more funding for recovery efforts on the island. CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta was the one who scored that exclusive interview. And Jim, what else did the Governor say?

ACOSTA: Well, Brooke, the reason why the Governor said that is, you know, they’re frustrated inside his office. There were aides over here with the Governor’s office just yesterday at the White House talking to officials over here about setting up a meeting between the President and Ricardo Rossello. And according to these officials with the Puerto Rican government, they were essentially lashed out against. And that top White House officials, including Peter Navarro, were telling them, listen, all of these cries coming from you guys and the Governor that this is, quote, f’ing things up. They, they did not take too kindly to that and as you heard the Governor there say he’s not going to tolerate his officials being bullied. Now I will tell you, Brooke, that the Governor’s here in Washington trying to promote this idea of Puerto Rican statehood. There’s a new bill that’s being introduced in the House to that effect today. Because the Governor says, listen, the reason why they received such short shrift from the government is because they’re a U.S. territory. Even though they’re American citizens, they don’t have the same kind of political leverage that a state has. And in the words of Governor Rossello, they feel like second class citizens. Here’s what he had to say.


ACOSTA: Do you think the President treats people of Puerto Rico as citizens?

ROSSELLO: Well, you know, treats us as second-class citizens, that’s, that’s for sure. And my…you know, my consideration is, I just want to have the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information that he’s getting is, is wrong. You know, I don’t, I don’t think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the President does any good. I don’t think anybody can beat the President on a kicking and screaming match. I think that what I am aiming to do is making sure that reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a, a discussion.


ACOSTA: Now, Brooke, officials over here at the White House have told us, you know, they’re pushing back. They’re saying that the Governor’s team was not threatened over this issue of a meeting between the President and Rossello. But they are not at this point committing to setting up that kind of meeting between the President and Governor Rossello. They’re saying that they hope to get a meeting for the Governor sometime in the near future but not with, not necessarily with the President. And we should point out to our viewers, despite the fact that they suffered one of the biggest hurricanes, one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, they’ve only received a fraction of the tens of billions of dollars that that territory needs to get back up on its feet. They’re still languishing down there in Puerto Rico, waiting for help from the federal government and it’s just not coming and they’re, they’re really frustrated with all of this and I think you’re seeing some of that play out in that interview we had with the Governor earlier today; Brooke.

BALDWIN: I would punch him in the mouth, that is quite the sound bite. Quickly, Jim, have you heard anything back from this, this administration on that?

ACOSTA: Not yet. Now the President is about to leave…

BALDWIN: Not yet.

ACOSTA: …in just a few moments. He’s going to be heading to Michigan for a rally later on tonight. I suspect he’ll be asked about some of these concerns coming from the Governor’s office and we’ll wait and see. But remember, Brooke, he was on Capitol Hill earlier this week really, you know, diminishing the need in Puerto Rico for the kind of money that they need to get back out on their feet. And the President was essentially saying we’ve given too much to Puerto Rico already, why are we giving them so much money? And Rossello is saying that that is basically treating the people of his island like second-class citizens, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.