Sarah Sanders escalates Trump’s attacks on the free press

"The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration."


During the White House press briefing on Thursday, CNN’s Jim Acosta repeatedly urged Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to say whether she views the media as “the enemy of the people.” Sanders pointedly refused to disown that characterization, and instead went on an anti-press tirade that was sprinkled with distortions.

Acosta framed his question about comments White House adviser Ivanka Trump made earlier Thursday about how she, unlike her father, does not consider journalists to be the enemy of the people.”

“I think it would be a good thing if you were to say right here at this briefing that the press, the people who are gathered in this room right now doing their jobs every day, asking questions of officials… are not the enemy of the people,” Acosta said. “I think we deserve that.”

Not only did Sanders’ refuse to take Acosta up on his offer, but she countered with a harangue about journalists.

“It’s ironic, Jim, that not only do you in the media attack the president for his rhetoric when they repeatedly lower the level of conversation in this country,” she began. “Repeatedly — repeatedly —  the media resorts to personal attacks without any content other to incite anger. The media has attacked me repeatedly, on a number of occasions, including your own network. Said I should be harassed as a life sentence, that I should be choked, ICE officials are not welcomed in their place of worship and personal information is shared on the internet. When I was hosted by the [White House Correspondents’ Association], of which all of you are members of, you brought up a comedian up to attack my appearance and call me a traitor to my own gender.”


“As far as I know, I’m the first press secretary in the history of the United States that’s required Secret Service protection,” Sanders continued. “The media continues to ratchet up the verbal assault against the president and everyone in this administration, and certainly we have a role to play, but the media has to role to play for the discourse in this country as well.” 

It’s unclear exactly what Sanders was talking about at points. ThinkProgress could identify no examples of anyone associated with CNN calling for her to be “choked” or “harassed,” and the comedian she referred to — Michelle Wolf, who did a routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April — did not in fact “attack” her appearance.

After enduring her harangue, Acosta noted that he’s “sorry that happened to you,” but then asked her to acknowledge that the media isn’t the enemy of the people. Sanders again refused.

“I appreciate your passion — I share it — I’ve addressed this question, I’ve addressed my personal feelings, I’m here to speak on behalf of the president, he’s made his comments clear,” she said.


During a Trump rally in Florida on Tuesday, Acosta was verbally abused by Trump supporters who chanted, “CNN sucks!” A video he posted of his treatment went viral.

Trump encouraged his supporters’ treatment of Acosta by retweeting a video that framed it in an approving light.

Following Thursday’s briefing, Acosta tweeted that he “walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened. Sarah Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn’t do it. Shameful.”