CNN’s White House lawsuit is crucial, White House press conferences need readjustment


President Donald Trump is a media bully. 

We’re two years into his presidency and he’s labeled us “the enemy of the American people,” a label used by dictators or totalitarian leaders to create distrust and disinformation.

Trump’s rhetoric isn’t that of the usual president.

At a Nov. 7 press conference, CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta asked Trump about his use of the word “invasion” when referring to the immigrant caravan hundreds of miles away. 

The exchange grew fiery when Trump attempted to move on from Acosta, who refused to hand the microphone back to an intern who grabbed it from his hand, video footage shows. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, even tweeted a video of what happened at the conference but sped up the footage to portray Acosta as being physical with the intern.

Later that day, the White House announced it was suspending his hard pass credential “until further notice.” The move is a part of an ongoing battle with media outlets and journalists to get answers from Trump, who disagrees with “unfair” coverage of both his actions almost daily.

Trump and journalists regularly spar on an array of topics and the exchange with Acosta at first appeared no different. 

But this is a new low.

CNN announced it was filing a lawsuit on Tuesday against White House officials and Trump and called for the restoration of Acosta’s press credential. 

It is crucial that CNN is pushing back against the misuse of executive power and the violation of Acosta’s first amendment rights. 

The revocation of Acosta’s press pass is a clear breach of a journalist’s rights, and our president should be able to handle any form of question that comes his way. And with this new precedent, Trump could kick out more journalists and continue to handpick who he wants to ask him questions.

We don’t want watered-down questions, and we don’t want watered down answers. 

We think our president handles these press conferences poorly, and this is a result of both the conference format and Trump’s temperament.

When we interview UB President Satish Tripathi, he does not ask for questions in advance, and he doesn’t get to decide which direction the interview should go for us. He gives us our time to elaborate and ask our questions, and we give him room to answer. Sometimes these exchanges do become tense, but that’s part of what journalism demands. We have never felt afraid to do our jobs. 

But Tripathi is not the U.S. president. 

The cut-throat nature of getting one's voice heard in the White House often turns into a screaming match, where Trump and journalists spar over the day’s headlines. 

These conferences need time limits for journalists to ask questions and assigned times to speak for both Trump and the journalists.

Trump picking and choosing his favorite publications and journalists to ask him questions will never allow him to be challenged.

Acosta knew the nature of the game and wouldn’t allow Trump to get away with not answering. 

Trump’s response was no surprise. He could’ve just said “no comment,” but instead decided to belittle Acosta and those who came to his defense. 

Acosta should have known pushing Trump on topics he is known to dodge would only create a displeasing -- if not incendiary -- response, but our president still has no right to ban journalists from the press room. 

CNN suing the administration is huge, yet it seems we forget about one headline in favor of another from one moment to the next. 

The news comes at a time of ongoing turmoil and headlines, from the California wildfires, Trump’s response to the Caravan at the U.S.-Mexican border and ongoing midterm election results.

There are other things going on in our country that deserve our attention, but when journalists can’t even ask the president about them, it’s a crisis. 

The editorial board can be reached at opinion@ubspectrum.com