The battle continues to rage on Twitter and elsewhere about whether CNN report Jim Acosta “put his hands” on a White House intern during a Trump press conference conflict over whether Acosta could ask a third question Trump didn’t want to hear. I have an opinion about what happened: Acosta tried to hog the questioning, a mistake but understandable in the circumstances; the intern was trying to do what she thought, correctly, the President wanted her to do, which was prevent Acosta from continuing to speak by taking the microphone out of his hands. Acosta resisted what, to me, looked like aggressive, even assaultive behavior by the intern. She should have stepped back at the first sign of resistance, but didn’t. Instead, she reached across Acosta and tried to snatch the microphone from his grip. He resisted, bringing the wrist of his hand, which was pointing at that moment, across the intern’s arm. Gently, I thought. She turned back to Trump with a “what do I do now” look on her face. Game over.
Well, not quite. The White House revoked Acosta’s press credentials claiming he had “put his hands” on the intern, a demonstrably false (are you surprised?) assertion. He did no such thing and the claim otherwise is a bald-faced lie. Putting aside the screaming irony of the idea that Donald Trump gives a good damn about what happens to a young female who works for the White House, the White House is now clutching its pearls and acting all offended on behalf of womankind.
In fact, they went so far as to release what appears to be a doctored video of the incident, altered to make it appear that Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was. I don’t know if the video was changed by the White House or by the source on the far far far right wing of the propaganda machine that, curiously, provided the tape used to the White House. The White House couldn’t get its own video? Really?
But here’s the thing. The WH Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders outright lied when she said that Acosta put his hands on the intern. He did not and even the doctored, if it was, video of the incident shows that clearly. Sanders, like all Trump’s Press Secretaries before her, has zero credibility, just like her pathetic excuse for a president.
So, what about it then? Here’s what I think.
Acosta and the rest of the WH press corps needs to learn how to ask questions. Acosta challenged Trump over whether the word “invasion” accurately describes the “caravan” of immigrants walking through Mexico toward the US border. This gave Trump the easy counter move of saying “we have a difference of opinion” and dismissing him. Acosta set himself up for that response. I have seen many other press people asking similar questions.
Instead, Acosta’s question should have been: “Mr. President, what supportable facts do you have to show that the immigrant caravan members are armed and intend to force their way into the United States?” Or, “Mr. President, what investigation has been conducted to determine whether the caravan intends to crash the U.S. border or instead intends to seek asylum here as permitted under U.S. law?”
Trump likely will still lie but at least the “conversation” will be about facts and not about whether a group of people represents an “invasion” or something else.
Since Trump’s most ardent supporters are immune to new information and believe anything and everything Trump says, the change in approach won’t matter much to them. The rest of the country, however, would benefit by refocusing the questioning of the President on facts that can be verified, or not. Trump’s continuing strategy of diverting attention from his real problems, like the Mueller investigation, is a classic example of “wag the dog.” The press owes it to the country to learn how to ask questions that deflate rather than feed that game.
Just my opinion.