We, the board of the Chicago Headline Club, the largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, demand that the White House immediately reinstate the full credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
A free press is a pillar of our democracy. Without a free press, there are no independent agencies to inform the public, expose injustice and hold the powerful to account. Some of the most important reporting comes from those who cover the White House and our nation’s government each day.
The president first insulted Mr. Acosta as he asked a question during a news conference. An intern then tried to remove a microphone from Mr. Acosta’s hand to stop him from asking questions. This is clearly confirmed by video, and accounts of other reporters at the press conference.
Hours later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Mr. Acosta’s credentials were being revoked indefinitely, meaning he would no longer have access to cover the White House on behalf of one of the country’s largest cable networks. To justify this outrageous retaliation, Ms. Sanders falsely accused Mr. Acosta of accosting the intern. Hours later, she followed up by propagating a doctored video, edited to make it appear as though he assaulted the young woman.
This is disgraceful.
Ms. Sanders, in announcing the revocation of Mr. Acosta’s credentials, said the administration appreciates and welcomes tough questions from journalists. This is comically absurd and there is only evidence to the contrary. This administration has routinely disparaged free press and belittled its value, it has demeaned strong news coverage, and has attacked reporters who dare set the record straight in the face of lies.
It was bad enough to accuse Mr. Acosta of doing something he obviously did not do. That the White House would then attempt to support the lie by disseminating an altered video is especially detestable and shows the lengths to which this administration will go to wage war against the truth.
Jim Acosta did nothing wrong. He is a devoted journalist who did exactly what his colleagues, bosses and the public expect of a reporter in his position: He questioned the leader of our country and demanded answers. He sought accountability.
The banishment of Mr. Acosta from the White House is unprecedented in this country. Sadly, it is not an unfamiliar tactic. Public officials and elected leaders at all levels of government routinely refuse to speak to reporters they deem unfriendly and block access to entire news outlets. We saw this occur on Election Day when Rep. Steve King of Iowa barred the Des Moines Register from covering his election night event, refusing to credential any of their reporters.
This treatment of journalists is inexcusable whether they cover the White House or a local school board. More importantly, a public official rebuffing accountability for their actions is a disservice to the people they are supposed to serve.
No public official should be above scrutiny. And no journalist in this country should be punished for doing their job.
If the White House truly values the work of the press, as Ms. Sanders indicated in her statement, there is an obvious way to demonstrate that: restore Jim Acosta’s credentials and end its vicious attacks on journalists.