14/11/2018 09:34 GMT | Updated 14/11/2018 11:06 GMT

White House Responds To CNN Acosta Lawsuit Ahead Of Planned Hearing

Sarah Sanders accused the network of "grandstanding".

The White House appears to have backtracked on the reason why it barred CNN’s Jim Acosta, after the news network filed a lawsuit demanding the return of his press credentials.

A district judge has ordered the Trumpadministration to respond to the lawsuit by 4pm GMT on Wednesday, with a hearing set for 8.30pm. 

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said CNN was “grandstanding” with the suit, but made no mention of the original accusation, that Acosta had “placed his hands” on an intern during a press conference.

CNN’s Chief White House correspondent was involved in a dramatic confrontation with the President last week, when he refused to sit down after asking the President about a “racist” anti-immigration ad run ahead of the mid-term elections.

A White House intern then approached him to try to take the microphone away from him. Sanders later tweeted a video of the incident but was faced with accusations it was doctored to make it look like Acosta was hitting the intern.

In Wednesday’s statement Sanders did not repeat the accusation but instead insisted Acosta was stripped of his press credentials for “refusing to yield to other reporters”.

She said:

“After Mr. Acosta asked the President two questions — each of which the President answered — he physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern, so that other reporters might ask their questions. This was not the first time this reporter has inappropriately refused to yield to other reporters. 

“The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional. The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolise the floor. 

“If there is no check on this type of behaviour it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff, and members of the media to conduct business.”

But Acosta was not the only reporter to ask multiple questions at the press conference and the event was only the latest escalation between Trump and the media.

As Acosta battled to keep the microphone, Trump said: “CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them.

“You are a rude, terrible person,” he added.

Trump has repeatedly called the media the “enemy of the people” even in the aftermath of a failed bombing campaign targeting prominent Democrats and CNN’s New York headquarters.

CNN CEO Jeff Zucker, in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly, called it a “pattern of targeted harassment”.

The White House Correspondents’ Association backed the lawsuit, with the group’s president, Olivier Knox, saying: “The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him.”