Accosting Acosta: Why Banning a Journalist is Troubling

Marcus Pearson

Jim Acosta, notable reporter and interviewer from CNN, was recently barred from the White House’s interview panel for allegedly assaulting a moderating intern during a recent press event. This came shortly after Acosta questioned President Trump on his accused ongoing vilification of the impending migrant caravan shambling towards the southern border.


C-SPAN footage from the alleged assault ostensibly exonerated Acosta, revealing nothing more than gentle hand placement and resistance towards having the microphone taken, but separate footage, clearly edited, was spread via the official twitter of the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. This new footage was sped up at the point of contact, changing the clearly non-violent gesture from the original footage into an apparent “chop” onto the young interns arm.


While problematic on its own, the Acosta incident harbors a much deeper query at heart than simply: “Should the President ban annoying reporters?” The larger picture, one with precedent-setting ramifications, has to deal with whether or not the President should have the power to restrict the media at his personal whim.


Freedom of the press has been part of the constitution since its conception, and for good reason. The use of the press as a political catalyst was a major part of the American Revolution, and even today, the most veritable layman can remember the great champions of the colonial newswire from eighth grade Government: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Paul Revere’s engravings, and prints of the Boston Massacre. From its earliest beginnings, our nation’s press was famous for inducing discontent and alternative thinking, which is exactly why this administration vilifies it.


The press, dutifully following each scandal like moths to flame, cover so many stories in such a short period of time that their audience can almost do nothing but watch the headlines fly each day, unable to dive any deeper due to a combination of a collective short attention span, fatigue, and apathy. Politically—this is a wonderful strategy. By the time someone cares about one issue, six more have stolen the Nation’s gaze already.


It’s here though, that the seams began to unravel. Eventually the scandals became too great to ignore; single stories—like the barring of Acosta—persist for weeks, not days. Journalists stopped simply asking questions; they began pointing out inconsistencies and hypocritical comments to the President’s face. He couldn’t deflect, so he’s decided to remove them from the equation entirely.


OHS residents have expressed concern over the President’s recent actions, especially regarding the media. Jennifer Cole, English teacher and honor society advisor, shared her views on the matter of whether the President should be able to ban reporters in such a way: “Absolutely not, it’s dangerous when the President decides who gets to tell the story. When we allow this the happen, the truth becomes less transparent than it should.”


Rohan Shah, a Junior, had a much more measured opinion, explaining that “It’s a very difficult situation to tell, but it is troubling.”


While his press pass was eventually restored (as ordered by a Trump appointed federal judge no less), Acosta’s omital should not be surprising. The President has consistently called the media “the enemy of the people” and for years now he’s spent his waking hours constantly belittling them on Twitter and at his rallies. What should be surprising, and to a larger extent enraging, is how effortlessly the President has stripped a reporter of his first amendment rights. Not only that, but he’s allowed his office to spread clearly doctored footage, and lied about Acosta assaulting others, simply for annoying him. For asking him the questions he didn’t want to be asked. For doing his job.