Bob Franken


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I’ve said this before, but my colleagues in media have either disagreed or simply ignored me. After Jim Acosta’s confrontation with the president at a White House press conference and the subsequent retaliation, it’s time for me to renew my call for all reporters who hold so-called hard passes to turn them in and abandon their post at the White House en masse.
Yes, it would be a gesture of defiance (guess which gesture) raised to a president and administration that uses reporters as props. There is nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the props. Besides, the nation’s current chief executive demonstrates time and again his utter disregard for the entire Constitution.
Consider the tone of his post election news conference, after the frayed Democrats were able to weave a takeover of the House of Representatives. That’s a big deal. If there was a group in Washington called “The Spinners,” Donald Trump would be the lead singer. (Yes, I know there’s a Motown ensemble with the same name. Among their hits was “The Rubber Band Man.” Trump’s would have recorded “Robber Baron Man.”) He has somehow managed to twist the midterm results around into a “tremendous success,” because Republicans had expanded control of the Senate. The Senate wasn’t really in play, but whatever.

But that’s not why all journalists and their companies should pull out of the White House. Once again, he hurled invective at any media type who dared ask a tough question, and he aimed his most extreme abuse at CNN’s Jim Acosta. By the way, Acosta is considered by many of his peers to be kind of a hot dog. Donald Trump insists on being the hot dog king, so we never “sausage” animosity as that on display.
As Acosta tried to ask another of his snarky questions, this time whether the president had “demonized immigrants” with his campaign rhetoric, Trump rejected him out of hand, and a press-office intern tried to take away Acosta’s microphone. Jim held on to the mic and brushed the intern in the process. He even said to her “pardon me, ma’am.” He then persisted with his line of inquiry, which Trump refused to answer except for a tirade: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person.” That was it. Just another day in White House paradise.
Except that the administration later decided to lower the boom on Acosta. They pulled his press pass, denying him access to the grounds. That apparently was an unprecedented action, particularly when it was accompanied by a statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that it was really because Acosta was guilty of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
How shall I say this? That’s another Sarah Sanders lie. Various camera shots showed that it was a lie. To make matters even worse, Sanders’ press office distributed a video that had been clumsily doctored! The White House Correspondents’ Association, wimpy as ever, released a statement saying the administration’s hard-pass pulling was “out of line to the purported offense.” How’s that for bold?
There should no longer be a White House Correspondents’ Association, simply because there should no longer be any White House correspondents. After they turn in their passes, I’d suggest holding a bonfire, but there’s probably a law against that.
Then the crowd of self-respecting journalists, which includes many of them, will give up their access to the grounds and go back to their offices. They can work their phones — I’m told they even have portable ones these days — and do some old-fashioned reporting, mining that gold mine of corruption that defines this president and his accomplices.
Sure, if he wants to stage a news conference, we should go. If he wants to hold a rally, we should tape it, and the TV networks can decide whether he’s simply firing the same old ignorant, racist bullshot. The first thing everyone should investigate is whether Jim Acosta and Donald Trump have some secret public-relations deal to enhance JimAcosta’s image. It’s certainly accomplishing that. In any case, it’s time for all of them, including Acosta, to escape the White House prison and do journalism to explore whether it’s the president who is the “enemy of the people.”

(c) 2018 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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