CNN has rejected as a lie a claim that its chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, placed his hands on an intern as she tried to take a microphone away from him during a testing exchange with President Donald Trump.
Acosta has had his White House press pass suspended – and the card taken off him – after the alleged incident yesterday during a televised press conference with Trump following the US midterm elections.
The US news network, which Trump has repeatedly labelled “fake news”, has claimed Acosta’s suspension “was done in retaliation for his challenging questions” at the press conference.
In a video of the incident, shared by NBC News on Twitter, Trump tells Acosta “that’s enough” as he tries to ask a question about the Robert Mueller investigation into possible collusion between Trump and Russia during the 2016 US presidential election.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 7, 2018
A woman can be seen attempting to grab the microphone from Acosta, who holds on to it and says to her “pardon me ma’am”. The claim from the White House appears to be that he chopped his hand down on to her arm as she went for the microphone.
A zoomed-in video claiming to show this has been shared by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on her official Twitter account, alongside which she commented: “We will not tolerate the inappropriate behaviour clearly documented in this video.”
We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video. pic.twitter.com/T8X1Ng912y
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) November 8, 2018
However, some Twitter users claim the video has been doctored, with frames having been “added in order to accelerate the ‘chop’ motion”.
Further analysis: video is absolutely doctored. You can see the edit when the clips are side by side and slowed down to quarter speed. See for yourself: pic.twitter.com/4ZZrzhislg
— Aymann Ismail (@aymanndotcom) November 8, 2018
Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent said the video had been “distorted” and was first shared by Infowars “personality” Paul Joseph Watson.
Infowars is a right-wing media channel founded by Alex Jones that spreads conspiracy theories.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 8, 2018
Watson said any claim he “sped up” the video “is a brazen lie”.
In an earlier statement shared on Twitter, Huckabee Sanders said: “President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his administration.
“We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.
“This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.
“Contrary to CNN’s assertions there is no greater demonstration of the President’s support for a free press than the event he held today.
“Only they would attack the President for not supporting a free press in the midst of him taking 68 questions from 35 different reporters over the course of 1.5 hours including several from the reporter in question.
“The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it’s an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this Administration
“As a result of today’s incident, the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice.”
Acosta responded to the statement on Twitter, saying: “This is a lie.”
CNN also released a statement, in which it said: “The White House announced tonight that it has revoked the press pass of CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
“It was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference. In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied.
“She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better.
“Jim Acosta has our full support.”