Journalists stand up to Sean Spicer, Donald Trump's press secretary, for threatening to ban CNN's Jim Acosta

Sean Spicer may not like it, but the First Amendment doesn't require journalists to be polite

Published January 12, 2017 2:10PM (EST)


President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, want journalists to be polite before they can hold power accountable. That seemed to be the underlying rationale behind their decision to threaten CNN's Jim Acosta during Trump's press conference on Wednesday.

Members of the press shot back at Spicer for trying to keep Acosta from doing his job. 

The flap between Trump and Acosta began after the CNN reporter insisted that Trump answer a follow-up question. The president-elect had just blasted CNN for its decision to report on classified documents that claimed that Trump had been compromised by Russian operatives who possessed explosive personal and financial information about him.

"Mr. President -elect since you are attacking our news organization? Can you give us a chance?" Acosta asked the president-elect.
"Not you," Trump shouted, adding, "Your organization is terrible.  . . . I am not going to give you a question. . . . You are fake news."

"Mr. President-elect that is not appropriate," Acosta replied.

Although Trump did later accept a question from another CNN reporter, Jeremy Diamond, Acosta reported that Spicer approached him and threatened to expel him if he asked the president-elect another question.

"After I asked and . . .  demanded that we have a question, Sean Spicer, the incoming press secretary, did say to me that if I were to do that again I was going to be thrown out of this press conference," Acosta told CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper on Wednesday.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Donald Trump Jim Acosta Sean Spicer