Anyone who’s been following the White House press conferences over the past few years knows the name Jim Acosta. He covers the president for CNN. Everyone who knows about Acosta and his infamous behavior has an opinion on him. It is nearly impossible not to. He doesn’t ask questions as much as make accusations and interrupt. This is just one example from last week.
One who recently made his strong opinion on Acosta known was a very unlikely voice. That’s Jonathan Turley, a professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. Professor Turley is a political and ideological liberal but doesn’t always stay in that box. He’s known to speak up against what he sees as wrong regardless of who or what it is. That’s a refreshing thing to see.
He recently posted a tweet taking Acosta to task for his behavior at these press conferences. Turley wrote, “CNN’s echo-journalism model is destroying the media’s credibility. Every question from Acosta is an effort to score points rather than elicit information.” He’s precisely right. Its performance art, not journalism. Turley goes on to say this is not just a problem with Acosta, but is widespread in the press, “It is a press pandemic that continues to rage without relief.” Turley is getting at just one reason the press’ approval ratings are lower than the president they believe is so reprehensible.
The widely respected Brit Hume, who covered the White House for seven years for ABC News before moving to Fox in 1996, added some further clarity to Professor Turley’s observation.
In a retweet of Turley’s, Hume recalled, “Back when I was a White House correspondent, and when Sam Donaldson was before me, we asked aggressive questions.” Anyone who remembers Sam Donaldson’s work covering President Reagan well knows how aggressive he could be. He was dogged in his questions. But Hume is largely correct when he says, “But we were respectful and almost never interrupted or argued with a president…” He laments that “few others still observe such customs. Too many now don’t.”
While President Trump is responsible for his share of careless statements at his press conferences and in his tweets, the American people recognize that too many journalists, publications and broadcast outlets are daily committed to playing “gotcha” with the president rather than digging for real news. These citizens know these reporters are bringing disdain upon their profession, the very profession these reporters constantly remind us is one of the most noble and essential institutions in a free society. Even liberals like Professor Turley are not buying it. Rather, they are disgusted with it. If these reporters were smart, they would recognize what damage they are doing to their own reputations.
Photo by Gage Skidmore