CNN’s Jim Acosta is the journalist most likely to win the “most hated” prize from the White House. He is the target of not only President Trump, but his staff and the president’s fans as well. But Acosta declares that it won’t stop him from doing his “damn job.”
Acosta wears the disdain he receives from those associated with the present White House administration like a badge of honor.
“Not everybody is comfortable taking this guy on,” Acosta said. “It’s uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable.”
Acosta has even had to deal with some death threats from Trump supporters. After a week of the typical back and forth between Acosta and White House officials, he confessed: “It can be stressful. But I don’t want it interpreted as ‘Jim is in a fetal position on the verge of a nervous breakdown.’”
Acosta and Trump began their adversarial relationship at the Trump Tower press conference on January 11, 2017. The then-president-elect would not recognize Acosta for a question because CNN reported on the existence of a damaging dossier on which Trump had just been briefed by the FBI.
“Not you—your organization is terrible!” Trump said as Acosta kept shouting for recognition. “Don’t be rude,” Trump ordered. “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”
“Mr. President-elect, that’s not appropriate!” Acosta yelled back.
When violence broke out at the white nationalist event in Charlottesville last August, Acosta scolded the president when he suggested that there were “very fine people on both sides” during the lethal protests.
“No, sir, there are no fine people in the Nazis,” Acosta said to the president.
Acosta sees himself in the vein of legendarily vocal ABC News White House correspondent Sam Donaldson, the burr in the saddle of the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan White Houses.
Donaldson, now 84-years-old, said of Acosta, “I think he’s as good as it gets. And when I say that, I’m not damning with faint praise. He’s good.”
Acosta gets a very different review over at Fox News. On Tuesday night’s “Hannity” program, the host referred to Acosta as “that idiot over at ‘fake news.’” Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was a guest who chimed in: “Let’s be honest. Jim Acosta is a carnival barker in the press room that is both clueless and classless.”
Acosta responded back to Spicer on Twitter: “I miss you too.” Previously Acosta labeled Spicer as “just kind of useless.”
“My question about Sean is whether he’s trying to be relevant and come back into the conversation by ripping into journalists he doesn’t like,” Acosta said about his former antagonist. “I had a decent relationship with him before he came to the White House.”
At the press briefing on Monday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t take a question from CNN for their straight briefing. Acosta tweeted this statistic and ended his post with the hashtag “#courage.”
Sanders tweeted back, noting that two wounded Iraq war veterans had been her guests on the podium: “Courage isn’t taking ‘a question from CNN,’ Jim. Courage is combat veterans Sgt. Peck and Staff Sgt. Dwyer—the two heroes at the briefing.” She ended her tweet with the hashtag “#itsnotaboutyou.” This is a frequent sentiment from those who criticize Acosta, he’s all to glad to “preen for the camera.” Sam Donaldson got the same kind of criticism.
“People who stick their head above the crowd get hit by rotten fruit,” Donaldson said, quoting an old adage. “Jim sticks his head above the crowd. But if you look at what he’s doing, the questions he’s asking, the questions he’s pushing back on, his refusal to accept a bunch of hooey, yes, in a way that is grandstanding. But thank goodness he’s doing it.”
But Acosta is getting hit with more than just rotten fruit. “I receive more threats than I could count; it’s almost every week,” said Acosta. One follower reacting to an Instagram photo of Acosta skiing by wishing that he’d race into a tree and kill himself. Another troll said that he hoped the reporter would get cancer.
“I don’t think we should go too deeply into it,” Acosta added. “The company is aware, and they’ve urged me to take precautions,” he said in regard to the death threats. Acosta maintained that most of the feedback he receives, even some private messages from Republicans, is encouraging.
“There are a lot of people who feel deep down that what the president is doing, and what the White House is doing, is deeply wrong in terms of attacking the press,” Acosta said noting the vicious terms—“enemy of the people,” “dishonest,” “lowest form of life,” “scum”—that Trump has thrown into his feud with the news media.
Acosta described covering this administration as “running to tornadoes and hurricanes.”
“At any given moment,” Acosta said, “this is a president who can completely change the news cycle. Some of that is intentional—he knows what he’s doing when he wants to change the narrative.” He said that Trump’s scattered actions breed chaos and confusion.
“My sense is that in the same way Americans got tired of watching The Apprentice on NBC, they’re eventually going to get weary of this reality TV-style president—which is essentially what we have right now.”
Until there is a change, Acosta plans to keep being aggressive. “There are days when you can’t be the shrinking violet,” he said. “I’m going to do my damn job.”
Credit: The Daily Beast