Asked how long Acosta’s pass would be suspended, Trump replied: “As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that decision. But it could be others also.”
The president made his comments while speaking with reporters on the South Lawn before boarding Marine One.
“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place for me, a very special place,” Trump said as he left Washington for a brief jaunt to Paris. “You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.”
The removal of Acosta’s credential, after a tense news conference Wednesday when the CNN correspondent aggressively questioned Trump, has raised alarms among press freedom groups that say the president is encroaching on journalists’ basic right to cover the government.
Aides to Trump said he was most bothered by reporters who, in his view, spoke to him in a belligerent manner, and that his willingness to take questions — he did so for about 25 minutes Friday — made him more open to scrutiny than past presidents.
But Trump’s retaliation against Acosta, buttressed by a false claim that the correspondent had handled a female White House intern roughly during the news conference Wednesday, has little precedent in the modern White House.
On Friday, the president lashed out at Acosta again, calling him “a very unprofessional guy.” He went on to insult other members of the White House press corps, including April Ryan, the correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and one of a small number of African-American reporters who cover the administration.
“You talk about somebody that’s a loser; she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing,” Trump said of Ryan, in an unprompted diatribe. “She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise or a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty. And she shouldn’t be. She shouldn’t be. You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”
Trump also laced into another African-American journalist, Abby Phillip of CNN, who asked the president if he wanted the new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, to “rein in” the investigation being led by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
“What a stupid question that is,” the president replied to Phillip. “What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot — you ask a lot of stupid questions.”
In a statement, CNN said Phillip “did not ask a ‘stupid’ question today at the White House.”
“In fact, she asked the most pertinent question of the day,” the network added.
Trump, who relishes jousting with reporters, has offered tough words for journalists of all races and genders. In the past few days, though, he has insulted or replied harshly to several African-American women, including Ryan, Phillip and Yamiche Alcindor, a White House correspondent for PBS.
At the Wednesday news conference, Trump repeatedly told Ryan to “sit down,” accusing her of interrupting a male reporter, as she tried to ask a question about voter suppression. When Alcindor asked Trump about Republicans and white nationalists, he called her query “a racist question.”
Ryan, speaking on CNN on Friday, said that the three presidents she covered before Trump “understood that reporters were part of the underpinning of this nation.”
“Sometimes we ask questions that they did not like, and maybe there would have been a bit of retaliation and fight-back,” Ryan added. “But at the end of the day it was part of the American process.”
Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said Thursday that his group had been lobbying privately for the administration to restore Acosta’s press pass.
“It’s a pretty basic principle that a president does not get to decide who covers them,” Knox told National Public Radio. “One of the things that I’ve heard from many colleagues nationally and internationally is, essentially, if they can do this today to Jim, they can do it tomorrow to somebody else.”
In traveling to Paris, Trump may escape the Washington press corps for a few days. But he will be reunited with Acosta, who is scheduled to cover the trip for CNN.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Michael M. Grynbaum © 2018 The New York Times