"You don't state the facts": CNN's Jim Acosta calls out Sarah Huckabee Sanders to her face

Reporters also questioned why Donald Trump didn't care about "due process" when it came to the Central Park five

Published October 3, 2018 4:29PM (EDT)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (AP/Alex Brandon)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders (AP/Alex Brandon)

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders held her first press briefing in nearly a month Wednesday and she was met with a flurry of questions about President Donald Trump's ridicule of Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

"The president was stating the facts," Sanders said of Trump's mockery of Ford at a rally Tuesday night. "And frankly, facts that were included in special prosecutor Rachel Mitchell's report."

Mitchell, who was hired by the GOP to question Ford during the special hearing last week where both Ford and Kavanaugh testified, drafted a memo with her conclusions and declared the evidence Ford presented was insufficient "to satisfy the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard." The report, which claims to be an "independent assessment" has been widely contested by other industry experts.

"He was stating facts that were given during Dr. Ford's testimony," Sanders continued. "Every single word that Judge Kavanaugh has said has been picked apart, every single word, second by second, of his testimony has been picked apart. Yet if anybody says anything about the accusations that have been thrown against them, that's totally off limits and outrageous. This entire process has been a disgrace and the only reason that it's been that way is because Senate Democrats didn't do this the way that it should have been done and they circumvented the entire system, and frankly, they've undermined our entire judicial branch by the way they've acted," she argued.

Trump aimed to impersonate Ford's account of the 36-year-old alleged sexual assault during a campaign rally in Mississippi, saying, "I don't know. I don't know. What neighborhood was it in? I don't know. Where's the house? I don't know. Upstairs, downstairs — where was it? I don't know — but I had one beer. That's the only thing I remember." When it came to Kavanaugh, Trump described his life as in "tatters."

But Sanders defended the president's offensive portrayal of Ford, saying "we're pointing out the hypocrisy." She added that "Senate Democrats hold all of the responsibility" for turning this allegation and process into a public debate.

ABC’s Cecilia Vega, who Trump insulted two days ago during a press conference in the Rose Garden, questioned Sanders on Trump's shifting stance. "Just a couple days ago the president called Christine Blasey Ford a very credible witness — very credible, very compelling," she said, "but now he is basically making her out to be a liar, so which is it?"

Sanders reiterated that Trump was simply stating facts and ultimately, the decision about determining the credibility of Ford's accusation must be based on fact and not emotion.

"This was so much more than stating the facts," Vega pressed Sanders. "This was a full-scale campaign rally assault on a woman who says that she is a victim of sexual assault." Sanders dismissed her categorization of Trump's comments.

READ MORE: Feminists won't back down: What's next for #MeToo after the Kavanaugh vote?

One of the most poignant moments in the press briefing was when one reporter questioned Sanders about Trump's selective calls for due process. As the allegations have rolled in against Kavanaugh, or against other people the president is close to, like former White House staff secretary Rob Porter or even the sexual assault allegations against himself, Trump has decried a lack of due process and asserted that men are now automatically presumed guilty.

But when it came to the Central Park Five, black and Latino teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of the rape and assault of a white female jogger in New York City decades ago, Trump notoriously took out a full-page ad in major newspapers before they were convicted and advocated for a return of the death penalty in New York. Trump has continued to allege their guilt, even after they were exonerated by a serial rapist's confession and DNA evidence.

Sanders deflected, saying that the president encouraged Ford to come forward and testify and is in favor of a law and order that presumes that people are innocent until proven otherwise. When White House reporter April Ryan asked if Trump still believes the Central Park Five are guilty, Sanders said she needed "to look back at the specific comments."

CNN's Jim Acosta, apparently fed up with Sanders' deflection, called her out directly about her defense of Trump's mockery.

"I don't have any problem stating facts, no," Sanders insisted in continued defense of Trump. "I know that's probably something you do have a problem with that, but we don't," Sanders said before moving on to another question.

"Actually, Sarah, we do state the facts and I think there have been many occasions when you don't state the facts if I may respond," Acosta replied.

By Rachel Leah

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