It was another all-too-rare moment of White House press corps solidarity, this time from an unlikely source. The Daily Mail’s David Martosko, once thought to be a shoe-in for Donald Trump’s communication director, stood up for CNN’s Jim Acosta during Wednesday afternoon’s briefing.
“Is the White House willing to say right now, in view of what happened with one of our TV colleagues last night, that it is wrong for his most vocal supporters to be menacing towards journalists doing their job in a situation like that or any situation?” Martosko asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
He did not reference Acosta by name, but it was clear who he was talking about.
At a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday night, Acosta faced a barrage of middle fingers and shouted insults from the crowd. He posted a sampling on Twitter, writing, “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt.”
While Sanders said the president “does not support violence against anyone or anything,” she went on to say that “when it comes to the media, the president does think that the media holds a responsibility.”
“We fully support a free press,” she continued. “There also comes a high level of responsibility with that. The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools.” She also cited what appears to be an “urban myth” about the media sharing classified information about Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone.
“Unfortunately it's now standard to abandon common sense ethical practices,” Sanders added. “This is a two-way street. We certainly support free press, condemn violence against anybody but we ask people act responsibly and report accurately and fairly.”
But Martosko wasn’t done, asking Sanders to answer whether the White House thinks it’s “right or wrong” for Trump’s supporters to “prevent a broadcaster from getting a broadcast out and yelling his network sucks.” He said: “No one was being violent in terms of hitting anybody and no broadcaster was broadcasting state secrets, they were trying to do stand-ups at a public rally and people trying to yell over them, preventing them from doing their job.”
“While we certainly support freedom of the press, we also support freedom of speech,” Sanders replied. “And we think those things go hand in hand.”
After the briefing, Martosko tweeted, “So the takeaway is that the White House won't discourage the president's crowds from shouting down reporters and yelling that their networks suck during live broadcasts. Good to know. There's a First Amendment tension between speech and press, and ultimately one side must lose.”