Bizarre 'doctored video' claim hits Trump
WHITE House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has been accused of sharing a "doctored" video of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's interaction with a White House intern that resulted in the reporter's press pass being revoked.
Acosta's press pass to access the White House was suspended "until further notice" Wednesday, hours after he engaged in a contentious back-and-forth with President Trump.
A White House intern attempted to retrieve the microphone from Acosta, but the CNN reporter resisted and asked an additional question - and that's where things get cloudy.
Sanders said the suspension of his press credentials stemmed from his "placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern." She called the behaviour "absolutely unacceptable."
This is a complete lie. The woman grabbed Jim's arm repeatedly. He never once touched her. In fact at one point @Acosta tells her politely "pardon me, mam" as she's yanking on his arm. https://t.co/Mfh3Ol5Q46— Allie Malloy (@AlliemalCNN) November 8, 2018
But many high-profile media members, including The New York Times' Maggie Haberman and CNN executive Matt Dornic, have accused Sanders of using a doctored video speeding up Acosta's arm motion, as evidence.
"We stand by our decision to revoke this individual's hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behaviour clearly documented in this video," Sanders tweeted to accompany the allegedly doctored video.
"Absolutely shameful, @PressSec. You released a doctored video," Dornic responded.
"Yes, the White House press office is sharing a manipulated video that makes it appear that Acosta was menacing the intern when he was not and did not. The intern reached over Acosta to grab the microphone while he was trying to ask another q and Acosta tried to pull away," Haberman wrote.
"The question is: did the reporter make contact or not? The video is clear, he did. We stand by our statement," Sanders told Fox News when reached for comment.
Several media members have accused Sanders of using an edited video circulated by Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson. Infowars is known for spreading conspiracy theories and is banned from most social media platforms, but Watson has managed to keep his Twitter account.
The man who drives Trump crazy
EVEN before he became president, Donald Trump singled out one combative reporter for special attention.
In his first press conference held at Trump Tower as president-elect, Mr Trump got into a heated exchange with a journalist who kept trying to ask questions.
"Not you, not you," Mr Trump said, trying to stop the man from speaking.
That angry back-and-forth, in which Mr Trump refused to allow Jim Acosta the opportunity to ask a question, set the tone for almost two years of hostility that reached a dramatic climax this week when the White House suspended the reporter's press pass.
So what is it about CNN's chief White House correspondent that Mr Trump just can't stand?
FIRST PRESSER SETS THE TONE
When Mr Trump stepped up to take questions in that first press conference as president-elect, he was not happy about stories CNN had published, including one that suggested Russia had compromising financial and personal information about him.
During the election, supporters at Trump rallies were firmly on the Republican's side, even chanting "CNN sucks" while Acosta tried to do a live shot.
Trump crowd chanting "CNN sucks" during my live shot. (Fact check: we don't) pic.twitter.com/m4a3HkU9R5— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) October 12, 2016
So when Acosta tried to question Mr Trump in January 2017 ahead of his inauguration, the president-elect was determined to freeze him out.
"Not you. Your organisation is terrible," Mr Trump said.
"Since you're attacking us, can you give us a question?" Acosta asked.
"I'm not going to give you a question. You are fake news," was the president-elect's response.
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS AND MORE QUESTIONS
Mr Trump's gripe is not just about the CNN's correspondent's reporting. In facing a President who's style is to engage in personal attacks, Acosta has not been afraid to be confrontational.
Drawing on his own experiences as the son of an immigrant, when given an opportunity to speak, Acosta often couches his questions in personal and emotional statements.
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which allowed illegal immigrants brought into the country as children to stay and work, Acosta asked how the President could leave the announcement to his attorney general.
"There's 800,000 people that will be affected, and he couldn't deliver the news himself?" the journalist said.
On August 2, Acosta got into a fiery seven-minute exchange with White House adviser Stephen Miller over the benefits of an immigration policy that favours high-skilled workers and English speakers. Acosta started his question by quoting a poem etched at the base of the Statue of Liberty and asked whether the government was rigging the system for Great Britain and Australia.
Mr Miller reacted angrily, calling it "one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish thing you have ever said".
Earlier this year Acosta was accused of being rude because he shouted a question at Mr Trump while he was surrounded by children during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The journalist questioned Mr Trump about the DACA immigration plan again saying, "What about the DACA kids? Should they worry about what is going to happen to them, sir?".
Mr Trump blamed the Democrats but Acosta persisted in his questioning, asking repeatedly: "Didn't you kill DACA?"
Earlier this year, Acosta made headlines when he asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if she agreed with Mr Trump's view of the press that they were the "enemy of the people".
"I think it would be a good thing if you were to say right here at this briefing that the press, the people who are gathered in this room right now, are doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier, are not the enemy of the people. I think … we deserve that," he said.
Acosta later walked out of the press briefing saying it was shameful Ms Sanders would not defend the media.
I walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened. Sarah Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn't do it. Shameful.— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 2, 2018
HE'S BECOME PART OF THE STORY
Acosta has been described by Politico as "the chief antagonist for a network that styles itself as Trump's chief antagonist".
His questions and heated confrontations often see him featured in the evening news and even been parodied on shows such as Saturday Night Live.
Beloved by some, his fans reportedly leave bourbon in his mailbox and he's often recognised in the street by supporters who thank him for standing up to President Trump.
But some journalists are worried about the way he has inserted himself into the story and that his confrontational style may just be feeding Mr Trump's accusations that the media is unfair.
Acosta believes he's just doing his job.
"People are going to look back at this moment and ask each and every one of us, 'What did you do when (Trump) was doing this in America?" he told Politico. "'What role did you play?'"
IT'S HIS JOB
Acosta sees asking tough questions as part of his job and he was doing it long before Mr Trump arrived on the scene.
He once asked then-president Barack Obama about Islamic State, saying: "Why can't we take out these bastards?"
He also described the loss of 2000 emails by America's tax service as "that sounds like the dog ate my homework".
During the President's most recent run-in with Acosta, the journalist asked Mr Trump why the so-called caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern US border was such an issue leading up to the midterms.
"You should let me run the country," Mr Trump said. "You run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better."
When Acosta tried to ask another question on Russia, Mr Trump said "that's enough!" as a White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.
"CNN should be ashamed of itself having you work for them," the President said.
"You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working for CNN. The way you treat Sarah Sanders is horrible. The way you treat other people is horrible. You shouldn't treat people that way."
But it's not his vigorous questioning that has seen Acosta's White House press pass suspended.
Instead, Ms Sanders tweeted that the administration wouldn't tolerate, a "reporter placing his hands on a young woman" referring to Acosta's interaction with a White House intern, when he refused to give her the microphone.
The claim has been described by Acosta as a "lie".
Further analysis: video is absolutely doctored. You can see the edit when the clips are side by side and slowed down to quarter speed. See for yourself: pic.twitter.com/4ZZrzhislg— Aymann Ismail (@aymanndotcom) November 8, 2018
Others have claimed Ms Sanders used footage doctored by far-right news website InfoWars.
Acosta would not relinquish the microphone and resisted as a White House intern Ms Sanders mentioned - tried to take it and pass it to a different reporter.
CNN has backed its reporter and said Mr Trump's attacks on the press have gone too far.
"They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American," CNN said through its Twitter feed.
"While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere."
One of the things Acosta was trying to ask Mr Trump after the microphone had been taken away from him, was about the explosive devices that were recently sent to CNN and some of the president's political opponents.
The war on the press has become personal and dangerous. It's difficult to know how the increasingly bitter battle between Mr Trump and the media will end but America's democracy depends on it.