White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday released a statement falsely accusing CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta of “placing his hands” on a female White House intern during an earlier news conference with the president.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration. We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern…his conduct is absolutely unacceptable,” Sanders tweeted in a statement explaining why Acosta’s White House credentials had been suspended.
In a statement posted on Twitter, CNN challenged Sanders’ account and argued that the revocation of Acosta’s access to the White House “was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference.”
“Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied,” the cable news network said of the explanation. “This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”
This is a lie. https://t.co/FastFfWych
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
Acosta tweeted that the accusation is “a lie.”
Slowed-down video footage from the encounter clearly shows that the female intern was the one who touched Acosta at least four different times while attempting to rip a microphone out of his hand. As the intern attempted to grab at the mic, Acosta politely told the intern, “Pardon me, ma’am.”
— Sarah Burris (@SarahBurris) November 8, 2018
Reuters reporter Jeff Mason tweeted: “I was seated next to @Acosta at today’s press conference and did not witness him “placing his hands” on the young intern, as the White House alleges. He held on to the microphone as she reached for it. The @Reuters pictures below depict what happened accurately.”
I was seated next to @Acosta at today’s press conference and did not witness him “placing his hands” on the young intern, as the White House alleges. He held on to the microphone as she reached for it. The @Reuters pictures below depict what happened accurately. pic.twitter.com/nO68Hf4eQM
— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) November 8, 2018
The White House Correspondents’ Association said in a statement late Wednesday that it “strongly objects to the Trump Administration’s decision to use U.S. Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship.”
“We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action,” the group added.
Earlier in the day, Acosta engaged in a contentious back-and-forth with President Trump after challenging his use of the word “invasion” to describe a migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 Central American immigrants who are walking through Mexico to claim asylum in the U.S.
“I think you should let me run the country and let you run CNN,” Trump lashed out at the journalist. “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”