The heated exchange occurred Wednesday when CNN reporter Jim Acosta continued to question Trump after the president dismissed him during a news conference about the 2018 midterm elections. Acosta had brought up the Central American migrant caravan, asking the president why he characterized it as “an invasion.”
“I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump told Acosta.
Then when Acosta tried to question Trump about the Russia investigation, the president shouted: “That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough,” telling him to “put down the mic.”
Trump then told the reporter: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. ... You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”
NBC News reporter Peter Alexander tried to stand up for Acosta, saying he is a “diligent reporter.” Trump responded: “Well, I’m not a big fan of yours, either."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has repeatedly clashed with the media, especially CNN, lashing out at reporters and calling their stories “fake news.” As The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reported, Trump snapped at yet another reporter later in the news conference after she noted that the president had once called himself a “nationalist” and asked him whether his embrace of “nationalism” is supporting white nationalists.
"I don’t know why you’d say that — that’s such a racist question,” Trump told PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is black.
“Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans?” he said. “Why do I have among the highest poll numbers with African Americans? I mean, why do I have my highest poll numbers?”
“That’s such a racist question,” he added. “Honestly, I know you have it written down and you’re going to tell me. Let me tell you, that’s a racist question.”
Then it continued.
Following the confrontations, CNN said in a statement on Twitter that Trump’s “ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far.”
“They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” according to the statement. “While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly said in a memo to employees Wednesday that “this organization believes fiercely in the protections granted to us by the First Amendment, and we will defend them, and you, vigorously, every time.”
“I want you to know that we have your backs,” Zucker wrote, according to Hollywood Reporter.
Amid the chaos, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) criticized the White House press corps.
“It’s apparent to me the White House press corps lives in a bubble,” he said on Twitter, “and the way they are conducting themselves today will do NOTHING to improve their standing with the American people.”
David Brody, a reporter with the Christian Broadcasting Network, agreed, saying the “mainstream media should be ashamed.”
Trump ended the lengthy news conference by telling the assembled journalists: “I’m very honored to be with all of you. . . . Hopefully, the tone can get a lot better. And I really believe it begins with the media.”
But, he added: “I do fight back.”