After first demanding members of the White House press corps ONLY ask questions about foreign cyberattacks on the U.S., Sarah Huckabee Sanders locked horns with CNN’s Jim Acosta during her press briefing on Thursday over President Trump’s repeated attacks on the media .
When Acosta pressed Sanders multiple times to say that the press “is not the enemy of the people”—a phrase Trump has deployed on numerous occasions—she not only refused to do so but went on an anti-press tirade.
“It’s ironic, Jim, that not only you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country,” she began.
Repeatedly, the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other than to incite anger.
The media has attacked me personally on a number of occasions—including your own network—said I should be harassed as a “life sentence,” that I should be choked. ICE officials are not welcome in their place of worship and their personal information is being shared on the internet.
When I was hosted by the [White House] Correspondents’ Association, of which almost all of you are members of, you brought a comedian up to attack my appearance and call me a traitor to my own gender.
As far as I know, I’m the first press secretary in the history of the united states to require Secret Service protection.
Acosta acknowledged that everyone, including politics reporters, gets “put through the meat grinder” of Washington D.C. He also apologized for how Sanders was treated at the annual dinner, but asked that “for the sake of this room,” “this democracy,” and the whole country, that the press secretary acknowledge that journalists are not the enemy.
“I appreciate your passion and I share it,” Sanders replied. She didn’t give Acosta what he asked for, and he tweeted that it was reason enough for him to walk out of the briefing.
That tense interaction came after Acosta was assailed by jeers from Trump’s supporters at a rally in Tampa earlier this week. Videos of those Americans shouting that Acosta “tell the truth” and swearing are not particularly pleasant to watch, just as it’s not heartening to hear Sanders refuse to issue even the most tepid show of support for the journalists she works with every single day.
But, as Politico’s Michael Calderone pointed out on Twitter, anyone who’s stunned by this turn of events hasn’t been paying attention. Trump has spent years—including before he was president—trying to delegitimize the press, a calling Sanders has been all too happy to take up as her own. Today was certainly a chance for Sanders to extend an olive branch, but doing so would’ve meant actively negating the White House’s stated position about the media. The damage is extensive—and it’s not going to get better any time soon, no matter how many times things get heated in the briefing room.