While many reporters in the world of Washington journalism are rushing to rally around CNN’s Jim Acosta after he was temporarily banned from the White House grounds, there are a handful of sane voices who know that this is just more theater from Acosta’s one-man clown show. They include the BBC’s Emily Maitlis, who wrote a surprisingly insightful piece about the Acosta Incident this week on the British network’s website.
“Jim Acosta was called on by the president to ask a question,” Maitlis wrote. “I’ll say that again. He was called on by Donald Trump to ask whatever question he liked. And when he’d finished asking one, he then asked another – with interruption follow-ups in between. It was only when he attempted his third question – or possibly fourth depending on how you define the follow-ups – that the president got angry and asked him to sit down.
“There ensued a tussle with the mic,” she recalled. “And weirdly ridiculous words from the president about him being a rude and terrible person. I’m pretty sure Acosta never intended to ‘mistouch’ the young female intern. He was just trying to hold on to the mic. My point is this – the scene was an incredible bit of theatre. We couldn’t take our eyes off it. It just went on and on.”
Maitlis acknowledged that President Trump enjoys these bits of drama and profits politically when he engages in the war on the media.
But she reminded readers that Trump is not the only one benefiting from this adversarial relationship.
“So let’s take a step back,” she wrote. “What happened in that room was not the ultimate fight for press freedom. This wasn’t someone risking life and limb against a regime where freedom of speech is forbidden. This was a bloke sitting in a room full of colleagues who were all trying to ask questions too. This was a man who’d had his turn and had been told he couldn’t hog the whole time.”
The idea that Acosta assaulted a female staffer doesn’t quite jibe with what we saw in the video – at best, it’s a stretch.
But let’s get serious. Acosta is loving every damn minute of this. This is the moment he’s been working towards since Trump took office. He’s doggedly pushed the envelope of proper journalistic behavior from Day One of this presidency, just waiting for the day when Trump or Sanders would finally get fed up and show him the door. He is at the White House for no other reason than to turn himself into a star, and this little incident will only feed into that goal.