CNN’s Jim Acosta on how he became Trump’s main target in the war on journalism
CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta knows firsthand what it’s like to be called “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” by the president. On multiple occasions, Acosta and Trump have clashed. Acosta, who details his dealings with the Trump in his NYT best-selling book “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America,” told Salon’s executive editor Andrew O’Hehir how he became the unintended star of the story and why he’s speaking out in support of press freedom.
“I was raised in this business to not make myself part of the story,” Acosta said on “Salon Talks.” “It is sometimes difficult to stay in your lane as a reporter when you're getting run off the road by the White House and by the president.”
Acosta, who’s been covering the White House since 2013, has not shied away from holding presidents accountable in the past. When covering the Obama administration in 2015, Acosta asked Obama, “why can't we take out these bastards?” referring to ISIS following the Paris terror attacks, but his 2017 run-in at President Trump’s first press conference had a different tone.
In January 2017, Acosta describes, the president called him fake news and attacked CNN, saying that one of their stories about the U.S. intelligence community was fake news. Acosta recalled thinking that Trump’s act of hating on CNN had “gotten out of his control.”
And it extends beyond a soundbites. Acosta shares the ripple effects of the president’s actions. “Not everybody is in on the act, and the president has demonized us in ways and put rhetoric out there that I think has inflamed the political environment in this country to the point where folks absorb this hostility, they absorb this rhetoric, and they direct it back at us in ways that make us feel endangered,” he said.
That’s why Acosta isn’t just advocating for himself and his CNN colleagues, but for journalists around the country. “Yes, I've received death threats. Yes, I've seen threatening messages come into my social media on a regular basis,” Acosta said. “But there are other journalists out there, other reporters, other news anchors who covered this president who have been going through the same thing.”
Watch the episode above to hear Acosta explain how Trump’s attacks on the press are engineered to anger and incite the media directly, and how CNN is covering the 2020 election differently than 2016.
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