Decision to revoke journalist’s pass ‘weak and misguided’

CNN journalist Jim Acosta has received messages of support from around the world after Donald Trump banned him from attending White House briefings.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier claimed Mr Acosta had “placed his hands on” a female aide trying to retrieve a microphone at the request of the president as the pair clashed during a news conference.

Footage of the incident shows Mr Acosta apparently brushing the woman’s arm as she reaches for the microphone and he tries to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he says.

Journalists and press organisations disputed Ms Huckabee Sanders’ version of events and claimed the White House’ decision to ban the CNN correspondent was ”weak and misguided”.

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), a coalition of journalists stationed at the government building, said it “strongly objects” to the US administration’s decision to ”use US secret service security credentials to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship”.

Journalists assigned to cover the White House must apply for passes to access press areas in the West Wing. White House staff then decide whether they are eligible, although it is the secret service that decides whether their applications are approved.

The WHCA statement continued: “Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of questions its members ask of powerful senior government officials, including the president.

“Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions.

“We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”

Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for press freedom internationally, said in a Twitter post: “@PressSec decision to revoke @CNN @Acosta White House credentials appears to be blatant retaliation against his attempts to question the president at a briefing this afternoon.

“(The White House) blames Acosta for an ‘assault’ against a (White House) intern, which video clearly shows never happened.”

The organisations were joined by PEN America, a group representing writers that strives to protect free expression, which said the decision to revoke Mr Acosta’s press pass was “a clear attack on the first amendment”.

PEN America is already suing the US president over his decision to “disinvite” another CNN reporter from a White House press event after she asked President Trump questions about Vladimir Putin and Michael Cohen.

Mr Trump has also threatened to revoke press passes from other White House correspondents “in retaliation for the editorial decisions that reporter had made”, according to the group.

Responding to the White House revoking Mr Acosta’s pass, former White House Correspondent for CBS News Dan Rathe said: “News the White House pulled Jim @Acosta’s credentials is not an attack on one journalist but all of the press.

“There should be complete solidarity. This is a moment for any Republican who says they believe in the constitution to stand up.”

Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro agreed with the decision to revoke Mr Acosta’s press pass, but said he did not “lay hands” on the intern.

“This is not what happened,” he said in a Twitter post. “You could have banned him simply for refusing to abide by any of the normal rules of the press room. No need to state something happened that didn’t.”

CNN said in statement: “The White House announced tonight that it has revoked the press pass of CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

“It was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference. In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied.

“She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”