Given an opportunity to say unequivocally that American journalists are not “the enemy of the people,” as President Donald Trump has declared, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined on Thursday.
CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, whose harassment by Trump supporters was applauded by the president earlier this week, asked Huckabee Sanders to disavow Trump’s infamous comment—one of many attacking the character of reporters, as well as their right to do their jobs.
“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, doing their jobs every day—are not the enemy of the people. I think we deserve that,” said Acosta.
“I think the president has made his position known,” said Huckabee Sanders before pivoting to her own attack on the media. “It’s ironic that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country.”
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Huckabee Sanders’ main focus during her remarks focused on negative coverage she has received, especially in the midst of the family separation crisis, during which she has vigorously defended the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
She also blamed the White House press corps for allowing comedian Michelle Wolf to comment on the lies Huckabee Sanders has told on behalf of the president in an act at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, which Trump supporters widely claimed focused on the press secretary’s physical appearance.
In addition to calling the press the “enemy of the people” and “really bad people” who peddle “fake news,” Trump himself has attacked the physical appearance of numerous journalists, including MSNBC‘s Mika Brzezinski, NBC‘s Megyn Kelly, and the New York Times‘ Serge Kovaleski.
At the rally where Trump supporters surrounded and yelled, “CNN sucks!” at him on Tuesday, Acosta expressed concern about the president’s steadily escalating attacks on the press.
“I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt,” Acosta tweeted.
He shared more distress over Huckabee Sanders’ refusal to stand up for the rights of the press on CNN after the briefing.
“It is not right, it is not fair, it is not just, it is un-American to come out here and call the press the enemy of the people….I don’t know why this press secretary doesn’t [know that],” Acosta said. “I mean, she got yelled at in a restaurant in Virginia… She ought to hear some of the things that were said to me the other night in Tampa. She ought to read some of the things that are said about my colleagues on CNN.”