CNN’s Jim Acosta Defends Combative Style to Colbert: Can’t ‘Sit Back and Do Nothing’

While journalists are ‘not supposed to be the story,’ Acosta said he’s ‘allowed to care about this country just as much as anybody else.’

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

CNN’s chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta wore American flag socks on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Wednesday night. He joked that they are from the “Enemy of the People collection.”

As CNN’s most beleaguered reporter, Acosta has become a poster boy of sorts in the Trump administration’s war on the free press. Just this past week, he made headlines when he failed to get White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to say that the media is not the “enemy of the people,” as the president likes to say.

“You’ve gotten singled out by the president quite specifically in his disdain for you and for CNN,” Colbert told Acosta, “and you’ve gotten some notoriety for pushing back in the way that you have. Are you an outlier or are you merely saying the things that everyone in the press corps is saying but just not in front of a camera?”

Laughing, Acosta said, “You know, we’re all fed up with the treatment that we’re receiving and I’m not the only one to speak out about this.” But as Colbert pointed out, he seems to be uniquely despised by the president, who on more than one occasion has denounced him to his face as “fake news.”

“When you insult our news organization, when you call us ‘fake news,’ the way I look at it, hey, that’s calling on me for a question,” Acosta explained. “So I am going to push back.” He added, “I don’t think we do ourselves any good, Stephen, if we shy away from these hard questions. And, you know, my goodness, the way I look at it is—and this is the debate I have with my fellow journalists when we talk about this—what if we just did nothing? Do we just sit back and do nothing in the face of that?”

Asked later if he worries about how often he ends up “becoming the story” as a member of the press, Acosta replied, “We’re not supposed to be the story. That’s not why I’m out there. You know, I get accused of that from time to time, and my attitude is, listen, I’m allowed to care about this country just as much as anybody else.”

“Look at the socks,” Colbert joked.

“If you can take children away from their parents on the border and put them in cages,” Acosta added, “if you think you can demonize immigrants and call them rapists and criminals, if you think that you can distort the sense of reality that we all have on a daily basis by telling lie after lie and falsehood after falsehood and not face any hard questions, I think you’re just not living in the same United States of America that I live in.”  

“I thought you were going to say, ‘You might be Donald Trump,’” the host responded.