CNN said late Wednesday that the White House had pulled senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass "until further notice," prompting calls for its immediate return.
Acosta tweeted the news Wednesday.
The move came after Acosta peppered the President with questions during a contentious post-election news conference, trying to get a response to why the President had called the immigrant caravan an "invasion" and whether he thought indictments were coming down in the Russia election-meddling probe. The president called Acosta a rude, terrible person and said CNN should not employ him.
"White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement that Acosta would be stripped of what's known as a 'hard pass,' which gives him access to the White House grounds," CNN said. Trump had also said that Acosta's treatment of Sanders was "horrible," though he did not say on what that was based.
CNN stood squarely behind Acosta, saying the White House move was retaliation for his "challenging questions." The network said that in explaining the pass's revocation, Sanders had lied. "She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened," the network said. "This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support."
The Radio-Television Digital News Association threw its weight behind CNN's senior White House correspondent and condemned the White House's action, saying the pass should be returned ASAP.
“The leader of the free world has consistently ridiculed journalists who report the truth as purveyors of ‘fake news’ and the ‘[enemies] of the American people.’ To go a nearly unprecedented step further and revoke the credentials of a responsible journalist who was merely attempting to ask a question of the president is unconscionable,” said RTDNA Executive Director Dan Shelley.
Sanders posted a tweet defending the move and including video purportedly showing Acosta manhandling the intern.
Of the White House's assertion that Acosta had "essentially assaulted" a White House staffer who attempted to take his microphone away, Shelley said: "Any objective observer of the staffer’s attempt to confiscate the microphone Mr. Acosta was holding would surely conclude that he acted professionally and in a non-aggressive manner. He even said to her, ‘pardon me, ma’am.'"
Sanders also attacked CNN in a Tweet:
"This is clearly inappropriate and unprecedented punishment by the Trump administration for what it perceives as unfair coverage by the reporter, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ false description of the events leading up to it is insulting not only to the nation’s journalists, but to its people," said the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.The White House Correspondents Association was equally unhappy:
"We can all watch the video; Acosta simply did not do what the White House claims," said Suzanne Lysak, associate professor of broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University's Newhouse School. "He asked questions the president didn’t like. That is the only thing this is about, really. That and the fact you have two aggressive personalities; one asks questions for a living and the other balks at being challenged."