Rob Cline is the Editor in Chief of MediaFile
On Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted an edited version of a live video that captured a heated exchange between President Trump and CNN reporter and White House Press Pool member Jim Acosta. The edited video, which originated on the far-right site Infowars, shows an exaggeration of the moment where Acosta’s hand met the arm of a White House intern who attempted to snatch the microphone from him mid-question. Sanders, the official spokesperson for the President and a public servant, amplified a doctored video with the intent to mislead the American public and smear a high-profile reporter as a broader warning to the press.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders must resign, now. She has no remaining credibility to qualify her for her position and has demonstrated absolute contempt for the American people and objective truth.
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
Think I’m overreacting? It helps to consider the context.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders has disavowed democratic norms as press secretary since she took the role in July 2017. Her tenure has been marked by the most open hostility to journalists and the truth itself our country has ever seen from someone in the job.
Sanders’ tenuous relationship with the truth is on display almost every time she addresses the White House press pool. She has lied about everything from economic statistics, to administration policy, to statements the President made that were clearly documented on video or audio. She also has a knack for misleading and obfuscating the truth; she thrives in grey areas were she can avoid the objective truth without being called an outright liar.
As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin writes, “Sanders apparently has no moral qualms about misleading the American people over and over — despite the oath she took to the country, not to the president. In deliberately misleading or passing on misleading information, Sanders is not serving the American people. She is thwarting democratic government and enabling Trump’s attempts to free himself of investigations.”
Sanders has drastically rolled back how often this administration faces questions from the press, making the usual weekly (or even more frequent) White House press briefing into a rare event. This leaves the press and citizens with fewer opportunities to get crucial information on administration policies, and to hold the President accountable during scandal.
And of course, she has consistently defended and participated in the President’s verbal assaults on the media’s legitimacy, whether it be declaring outlets who hold them accountable “fake news” or dangerously abetting Trump’s refrain that the media is the “enemy of the people.”
Sanders has clearly been dipping her toes in the Orwellian for some time, and Wednesday’s events have showed that she’s now ready to go at least waist-deep.
Wednesday’s incident occurred during one of the President’s free-wheeling press conferences following a stinging loss for House Republicans in the midterm elections the day before. When CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta got his chance to ask a question, he pressed the President on his “demonizing” and misleading rhetoric surrounding the migrant “caravan” currently making its way through Mexico. The President quickly began berating Acosta with personal insults and misdirections while Acosta continued to ask questions. At one point, a female White House intern attempted to grab Acosta’s microphone out of his hand, which he resisted. The President eventually moved on to another reporter.
President Trump tears into CNN’s Jim Acosta: "Honestly, I think you should let me run the country and you run CNN"
FULL EXCHANGE: pic.twitter.com/yhmLDUMCiK
— Kyle Morris (@RealKyleMorris) November 7, 2018
Hours later, the White House announced that it has suspended Acosta’s press credentials, effectively locking him out of the White House indefinitely. Besides the fact that the move is most likely illegal, it demonstrates that the White House is willing to lie to justify removing a reporter in the interest of shielding itself from tough questioning.
In order to somehow defend removing Acosta’s credentials, Sanders tweeted the doctored video showing the moment when the intern attempted to grab the mic. The fake video, which a video production expert says has manipulated frames, appears to show Acosta giving a borderline karate-chop to the intern’s arm. Sanders claimed “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.” Viewing the live video broadcasted during the exchange proves the accusation that Acosta aggressively touched a female intern is blatantly false.
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) November 9, 2018
What’s even worse is that this video appears to have originated from InfoWars, the conspiracy site whose leader believes, and espouses, that US water systems are turning frogs gay, that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, and that Hillary Clinton leads an international pedophile ring, among other things.
The White House press secretary’s purpose is to serve as the intermediate between the executive branch and the people. As press secretary, Sanders is required to truthfully present and explain the policies and positions of the White House. She is also responsible for giving the press one of their only opportunities to get answers directly from the powers that be, and ask the questions that are expertly dodged in other venues by an administration trying to save face. Of course the press secretary is entitled to vigorously defend the President and their positions; however, they are never entitled to deny truth so openly and with such cynicism.
This issue isn’t about left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, or liberal vs. conservative. For our country and our government to be able to function, people of all backgrounds and beliefs need to be able to coalesce around what is the truth and dispel those who can’t do so from positions of power and importance.
Accepting a manipulated video, when video is a medium that serves as hard evidence in the eyes of the American people, and spreading that video to the public in order to attack the free press is wholly authoritarian in and of itself. The line between defending the president and disseminating propaganda has now been clearly violated. If Sanders remains in her job, she has paved the way for the White House to further assert its alternative truth by inventing situations that serve their agenda, and misleading the American people into believing them. This trajectory must stop – and it must stop now. It’s time for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to resign.