The White House has banished CNN’s top political reporter from the building after accusing him of assaulting an intern during a fiery press conference with President Donald Trump.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the decision hours after the news network’s Jim Acosta sparred with Trump during a raucous to-and-fro.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them,” Trump told Acosta during the press conference, as the reporter battled to keep a microphone amid attempts by a female intern to retrieve it. “You are a rude, terrible person,” Trump added.
But the situation escalated still further later on Wednesday when Sanders accused Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern”.
Both CNN and Acosta have described the allegation as “a lie”.
But in a statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders described Acosta’s earlier behaviour during the conference “absolutely unacceptable” and said his White House press pass would be suspended “until further notice.”
Sanders used a 15 second video clip that appeared to have been significantly manipulated to prove her accusation.
The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.
Watch video of the full, unedited, exchange at the top of this article.
CNN said in a statement that the White House revoked Acosta’s press pass out of “retaliation for his challenging questions” on Wednesday.
“In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied,” the network said.
″She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better,” CNN added. “Jim Acosta has our full support.”
Journalists assigned to cover the White House apply for passes that allow them daily access to press areas in the West Wing.
White House staffers decide whether journalists are eligible, though the Secret Service determines whether their applications are approved.
The decision to expel Acosta came just hours after confirmation that the Republican Party had lost control of the US House of Representatives on Wednesday.
In the wake of the results, Trump held a 90-minute press conference marked by hostility.
“It’s such a hostile media,” Trump said after ordering April Ryan, of the American Urban Radio Networks, to sit down when she tried to ask him a question.
The president complained that the media did not cover the humming economy and was responsible for much of the country’s divided politics. He said, “I can do something fantastic, and they make it look not good.”
His exchanges with CNN’s Acosta and another reporter for the NBC network turned bitterly personal, unusual even for the adversarial nature of presidential press conferences.
“I came in here as a nice person wanting to answer questions, and I had people jumping out of their seats screaming questions at me,” Trump said.