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Jim Acosta

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  • Right-wing media take remarks CNN’s Jim Acosta made about death threats out of context

    Acosta was discussing death threats he and other journalists have received. Some outlets pretended he was attacking Trump voters.

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Right-wing media are taking a clip of an interview with Jim Acosta out of context to claim that CNN’s chief White House correspondent was disparaging President Donald Trump’s voters as “just not smart enough.” But a closer look at the interview in question shows that Acosta was discussing the repeated attacks on journalists emanating from the Trump White House and his “concern … that a journalist is going to be hurt one of these days” by someone who took the president’s comments literally.

    On April 24, Variety published an interview with Acosta and two other well-known journalists who cover the Trump White House in which they discuss a recent trend in the Trump era of reporters finding “themselves getting death threats” as a result of their work. In response to that and a question about Trump calling journalists fake news, Acosta said, in part, “The problem is is that people around the country don’t know it’s an act. They’re not in on the act, and they take what he says very seriously. … They don't have all their faculties in some cases, their elevator might not hit all floors. My concern is is that a journalist is going to be hurt one of these days, somebody's going to get hurt. And at that point, the White House, the president of the United States, they're going to have to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves whether or not they played a role in this, whether they created this toxic environment that resulted in a journalist getting hurt."

    But conservative media figures have present Acosta’s words out of context in an attempt to accuse the CNN correspondent of slandering Trump “voters.” Fox & Friends showed only the portion of Acosta’s quote about people who “don't have all their faculties in some cases, their elevator might not hit all floors” and did not clarify what question he was responding to. Numerous other right-wing and pro-Trump media outlets and personalities, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, have similarly taken Acosta’s words out of context to accuse him of “trash[ing] the intellect of Americans.” From the April 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): Well, Tomi, on another topic, your favorite reporter gave an interview -- I’m just kidding, Jim Acosta gave an interview yesterday with Variety, talked about voters and gave us an input into his mindset. Take a listen to what Jim Acosta said.

    [BEGIN CLIP]

    JIM ACOSTA (CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT): The problem is is that people around the country don't know it's an act. They’re not in on the act, and they take what he says very seriously and they take attacks from Sean Spicer, and Sarah Sanders, and what they do to us on a daily basis very seriously. They don't have all their faculties in some cases, their elevator might not hit all floors.

    [END CLIP]

    HEGSETH: “They don’t have all their faculties.” They’re just not smart enough, Tomi.

    TOMI LAHREN (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): I never get tired of the leftist mainstream media insulting Trump voters because it makes it even easier for us to go back in 2020 and re-elect him. The more they tell us that we’re stupid, the more we’re going to go back and vote for Donald Trump, so thank you for the boost. And I would caution the leftist mainstream media, because I know that they want to see a Democrat take it in 2020, so let's have a cautionary tale from one Hillary Clinton who called us a basket of deplorables and also insulted our intelligence. How did that work out for Hillary?

  • Stephen Miller accused Jim Acosta of "cosmopolitan bias," here is the term's ugly history

    In Politico Magazine, analyst Jeff Greenfield explains "The Ugly History of Stephen Miller's 'Cosmopolitan' Epithet"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In Politico Magazine political analyst Jeff Greenfield explained how President Donald Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller’s invocation of the word “cosmopolitan” in a White House press briefing to attack a reporter connected him to a long history of the term being weaponized by “anti-Democratic political movements,” often with clear anti-Semitic undertones.

    During an August 2 White House press briefing, Miller defended the president’s support of the RAISE Act, a Republican-sponsored immigration proposal that would prioritize immigration based on the "skills" immigrants bring to the country and favor English speakers over non-English speaking immigrants. Miller, who once reportedly told a classmate they could no longer be friends because his classmate was Latino, has a long history of promoting anti-immigrant policies. Miller also has a close relationship with former Breitbart executive chair and current White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and shares the same extreme nationalist ideology with him. During a contentious back-and-forth with CNN’s Jim Acosta over the RAISE Act in the press briefing, Miller accused Acosta of harboring “cosmopolitan bias.”  

    As Greenfield explained, the word “cosmopolitan” is something of a “cousin to ‘elitist,’ but with a more sinister undertone.” The word has come to represent “people or movements that are unmoored to the traditions and beliefs of a nation,” and has long been a favorite of “nationalist political figures” as a means of delegitimizing and attacking opposition forces. As Greenfield noted, the term was invoked by Josef Stalin to “purge” the Soviet Union of “dissident voices,” and has often carried strong anti-Semitic connotations. From the August 3 article:

    When TV news viewers saw Trump adviser Stephen Miller accuse Jim Acosta of harboring a “cosmopolitan bias” during Wednesday’s news conference, they might have wondered whether he was accusing the CNN White House reporter of an excessive fondness for the cocktail made famous on “Sex and the City.” It’s a term that’s seldom been heard in American political discourse. But to supporters of the Miller-Bannon worldview, it was a cause for celebration. Breitbart, where Steve Bannon reigned before becoming Trump’s chief political strategist, trumpeted Miller’s “evisceration” of Acosta and put the term in its headline. So did white nationalist Richard Spencer, who hailed Miller’s dust-up with Acosta as “a triumph.”

    [...]

    So what is a “cosmopolitan”? It’s a cousin to “elitist,” but with a more sinister undertone. It’s a way of branding people or movements that are unmoored to the traditions and beliefs of a nation, and identify more with like-minded people regardless of their nationality. (In this sense, the revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine might have been an early American cosmopolitan, when he declared: “The world is my country; all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”). In the eyes of their foes, “cosmopolitans” tend to cluster in the universities, the arts and in urban centers, where familiarity with diversity makes for a high comfort level with “untraditional” ideas and lives.

    [...]

    One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.

    What makes this history relevant is that, all across Europe, nationalist political figures are still making the same kinds of arguments—usually but not always stripped of blatant anti-Semitism—to constrict the flow of ideas and the boundaries of free political expression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, has more and more embraced this idea that unpatriotic forces threaten the nation.

  • Can White House press briefings be saved?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Is the era of Trump White House daily press briefings now, for all practical purposes, over?

    On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer held an off-camera “gaggle” where all video and audio recordings were banned. It was only the latest example of an administration obsessed with secrecy and committed to embracing the opposite of transparency. (The White House held a similar “no audio” briefing last week.) That hallmark lack of transparency extends specifically to keeping journalists and voters as uninformed as possible.

    Today, White House press briefings are dying on the vine. They’re becoming increasingly scarce and unhelpful. “When Spicer and [deputy Sarah Huckabee] Sanders do take questions from journalists, they increasingly offer nonanswers,” The Washington Post noted this week.

    This trend fits a larger, disturbing strategy as the GOP-run Senate scrambles in total secrecy to pass a sprawling health care bill without holding any public hearings, without hearing from any health care experts, and without releasing the text of the bill. Reporters today have no idea what’s in the bill, simply because Republicans won’t make the contents public. (Reporters have to rely solely on Republican sources for legislative information.)

    It all constitutes a historic, incremental effort by the Trump administration to lock out the press -- and, by extension, the public -- from the government’s official duties and business.

    This was my warning just days after Trump’s November victory: Moving forward, news organizations face a stark, and possibly defining choice in terms of how they respond to any radical efforts to curb the media’s White House access."

    Today, some journalists, and specifically the large, influential news organizations they work for, deserve a healthy dose of blame for largely sleepwalking past a dangerous problem for months.

    For much of 2017, Media Matters has urged news outlets to take collective action to push back against the White House’s anti-press steamroller operation.

    This week, following the outrageous “gaggle” lock-out, CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta spoke out, suggesting “collective action” is the only option news outlets have in the face of the White House’s unprecedented attack on newsgathering:

    “It's bizarre,” said Acosta, who despite being labeled “fake news” to his face during a press conference with President Trump in February is not known for editorializing his reporting. “I don’t know what world we’re living in right now, Brooke, where we’re standing at the White House and they bring us into the briefing room here at the White House, and they won’t answer these questions on camera or let us record the audio... I don’t understand why we covered that gaggle today, quite honestly, Brooke. If they can’t give us the answers to the questions on camera or where we can record the audio, they’re basically pointless.”

    But is it now too late? The time for robust pushback was certainly back in January or February when the White House was still assembling its obstructionist strategy. The press should’ve been raising holy hell from day one. (Following yesterday’s controversy, the White House announced Spicer will be holding an on-camera briefing today.)

    Reminder: When the Obama White House tweaked an access policy in a way news organizations didn’t like, they instantly staged a “mini-revolt” by indignantly, and collectively, demanding a meeting with Democratic administration officials to fix the problem.

    Acosta's forceful and important commentary on Monday has been the exception, not the rule -- and criticism like Acosta's has not been bolstered by much tangible action from major news organizations.

    Why the media’s signature timidity? My guess is it was the dream of access journalism that prevented many in the press from doing the right thing from day one. It was the dream of access journalism that kept reporters, editors, and producers from loudly, angrily, and collectively, demanding traditional access from the Trump White House.

    Nervous about having their access cut off -- about not being called on at briefings, about being shut out of gaggles, about having no chance at landing a presidential interview -- many journalists and news organizations sat on their hands and hoped for the best. Nervous of offending a Republican president they deemed as a TV celebrity, journalists backed down. (Or worse, laughed along.)

    And leading the access brigade was the White House Correspondents’ Association. No matter how many obstacles the administration erected for the press, the group has routinely seemed to downplay them -- all while stressing the Trump team was providing access.

    But of course today the White House does not provide beloved access. It’s doing the exact opposite. The new paucity of on-camera briefings prove that point, as does the fact that when truncated briefings do occur the main objective appears to be to share as little helpful information as possible.

    Example: Three weeks ago a reporter at a briefing asked Spicer if Trump believed in climate change. Spicer said he didn’t know because he had never asked Trump. To date, Spicer still does not seem to have an answer for that very simple question.

    So yes, journalists sat on their hands while angling for access that never came. Trump hasn’t had a full-fledged press conference since February; it’s been more than a month since he sat down with a legitimate journalist to answer extended questions. And as scandal allegations mount, there’s no reason to think Trump’s personal attorney will allow him to give any in-depth interviews soon.

    While networks have gone overboard with airing almost all of Spicer's briefings, on-camera briefings -- even ones in which Spicer is his usual, evasive self -- are still better than nothing in terms of creating a video record of the administration's answers to reporters' questions on important issues.

    Nonetheless, the window to save the press briefings is closing quickly. I wish CNN and the rest of the press corps would take Acosta’s current advice (“we should walk out”), and do something.

  • Media Figures Immediately Call Out McMaster's Statement As Bullshit

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Journalists called out the White House’s attempt to spin a Washington Post report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In a statement following the report, White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster gave a statement saying the president did not reveal “sources and methods” to the Russians, a claim that the media noted was not a part of the Post’s report.