During a testy White House briefing Thursday, a reporter challenged Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to counter President Trump’s claim that the American press is the “enemy of the people.” She wouldn’t.
The heated exchange between Sanders and CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, came near the end of a briefing on Russia’s attempted interference in the midterm elections, and just hours after Ivanka Trump unhesitatingly broke with her father in a public interview, telling her questioner that she does not believe that the media is the enemy.
Acosta told Sanders, “I think it would be a good thing if you were to say right here, at this briefing, that the press — the people who are gathered in this room right now, doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials like the ones you brought forward earlier — are not the enemy of the people.”
“I think we deserve that,” he added.
“I think the president has made his position known,” Sanders replied, proceeding to express her own disdain at length. She told Acosta that it was “ironic” that “you and the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they frequently lower the level of conversation in this country.”
Sanders claimed that media outlets “incite anger” and have “personally” attacked her, adding that she was unfairly ridiculed at the White House Correspondents’ Assn. dinner in April by the comedian that the organization hired to headline the event.
“As far as I know, I’m the first press secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection,” she said.
“Tell that to the five dead people in Annapolis!” another reporter shouted, referring to the employees of the Capital newspaper who were shot dead in their Annapolis, Md., office in June.
Acosta followed up, giving Sanders another chance to disavow Trump’s claim.
“For the sake of this room, the people who are in this room, this democracy, this country, all the people around the world are watching what you’re saying, Sarah,” he told her. “The president of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the people.”
Sanders didn’t yield. She said she appreciated Acosta’s “passion,” but reiterated that Trump had made his position on the matter clear. Then she moved on to the next question. And, as the briefing ended, Acosta walked out.
A much different exchange played out earlier in the day, when Ivanka Trump was interviewed before an audience in Washington by Mike Allen, the executive editor of Axios, a news website.
“Do you think that we’re the enemy of the people?” Allen asked her.
The president’s daughter, who is also his senior White House advisor but — unlike Sanders — doesn’t have to be fearful of her job security, responded, “No, I do not.”
“That’s not a view that’s shared in your family,” Allen pressed, as the audience laughed.
“I have some sensitivity around why people have concerns and gripe, especially when they feel targeted. But, no, I do not feel that the media is the enemy of the people,” Trump said.
In a tweet later Wednesday, President Trump sought to suggest that he and his daughter were in complete agreement, and said that she had given the right response.
But then he repeated the accusation: “It is the FAKE NEWS, which is a large percentage of the media, that is the enemy of the people!”