By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) - While U.S. President Donald Trump often clashes with the media, many news outlets took the White House's latest move as a sign of ignorance in defending press freedom.
The White House on Wednesday suspended CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta's press credentials after the journalist engaged in a back-and-forth exchange with Trump.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the reason for the suspension was because Acosta assaulted an intern who was trying to take the microphone from him.
A hard pass is a press credential that allows a reporter to enter the White House grounds. Reporters without one have to request clearance from the White House press office.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration,” Sanders said in a statement. “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.”
Acosta responded to the statement on Twitter, saying "this is a lie."
Sanders released a video of the incident which has come under scrutiny as another video was released that showed Acosta defending his position.
"You manipulated this video. The lies never end," Matt Dornic, CNN's vice president of communications, said on Twitter after posting a longer video of the interaction showing Acosta did not place his hands on the intern.
The decision was rebuked by a wave of news outlets, who said that Acosta’s pass should be restored.
"What is most alarming in the Acosta incident is its illustration of the extent of Mr. Trump’s ignorance of the role of a free press in American tradition and democracy, and of the president’s role in defending it," The New York Times said in an editorial piece.
CNN released a statement Wednesday saying the "decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better."
The Washington Post said CNN should sue the White House for revoking Acosta's press pass.
"That action amounts to punishing a member of the press for doing his job of informing the public and then creating a false pretext about its retaliation," Margaret Sullivan said in an opinion piece to The Post.
Other prominent figures also came to the CNN reporter's defense, telling him to continue to seek the truth.
"Our Founders believed that the freedom of the press was so sacred that they protected it in the First Amendment. Stay in the fight for truth and keep asking the tough questions. Our nation is counting on you," Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley said to Acosta on Twitter.
"@realDonaldTrump’s behavior and the decision to revoke @Acosta’s press credentials is unacceptable. In our society, reporters have a responsibility to question our leader and hold them accountable," he added.
Jeff Mason, former president of the White House Correspondents' Association, said he was seated next to Acosta during the altercation, and Sanders description of the event was false.