White House media briefings are often contentious, but Thursday's question-and-answer session got personal.
During one exchange, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said to CNN reporter Jim Acosta, a frequent sparring partner, “I know it's hard for you to understand even short sentences.”
Acosta had asked Sanders about Attorney General Jeff Sessions's attempt, earlier in the day, to use the Bible to justify the Trump administration's immigration policies, which include splitting up families that arrive at U.S. borders seeking asylum.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Other biblical passages, including some written by Paul, have been cited by advocates of softer immigration policies. In Romans 12, for example, Paul wrote: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. ... Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”
“Where in the Bible does it say that it's moral to take children away from their mothers?” Acosta asked.
“I'm not aware of the attorney general's comments or what he would be referencing,” Sanders replied. “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law.”
Sanders and Acosta went back and forth until Sanders insulted Acosta's comprehension skills. On a telecast of the briefing, another reporter could be heard scolding Sanders for a “cheap shot.”
Sanders then falsely asserted that the Trump administration is separating children from their parents “because it's the law, and that's what the law states.” In fact, separation is not required by law but is a Trump administration practice that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly calls a “tough deterrent.”
Sanders gave the next question to CBS's Paula Reid, who performed an on-the-spot fact-check.
“There is no law that requires families to be separated at the border,” Reid said. “This was the administration's choice.”
Unmoved, Sanders continued to insist, falsely, that the Trump administration is simply doing what the law mandates. When Reid asked whether the administration will “take responsibility for its policy change,” Sanders replied, “It's not a policy change to enforce the law.”
Sanders tried to move on from Reid, but Brian Karem, executive editor of the Sentinel newspapers in Maryland, interjected.
“Come on, Sarah, you're a parent!” Karem said. “Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through?”
“Brian, guys, settle down,” Sanders answered. “I'm trying to be serious, but I'm not going to have you yell out of turn.”
Karem kept going. “These people have nothing,” he said.
“Hey, Brian, I know you want to get some more TV time, but that's not what this is about,” Sanders said.
Karem kept going.
“Answer the question,” he said. “It's a serious question. These people have nothing. They come to the border with nothing, and you throw children in cages. You're a parent. You're a parent of young children. Don't you have any empathy for what they go through?”
“Jill, go ahead,” Sanders said to another reporter, ignoring Karem.
The final question went to CNBC's Eamon Javers, who asked about a CBS report that Sanders has told friends that she plans to quit by the end of the year. Sanders neither confirmed nor denied the report.
“In terms of personnel announcements, I don't have any to make,” she said. “I can tell you that I show up here every day. I love my job. I'm glad to work for the president. And each and every day, I'll pray for clarity and discernment on what my future looks like.”