US President Donald Trump has denied suggestions that a video released by the White House claiming to show physical contact between a staffer and a CNN reporter during a press conference was altered.
White House correspondent Jim Acosta and CNN rejected as a lie a claim that he placed his hands on an intern as she tried to take a microphone away from him during a testing exchange with Trump last week.
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The incident was televised and clips shared on Twitter.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on to publish a clip of the incident, first shared by Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson, that appeared to show him chopping at the staffer’s arm.
A number of Twitter users were quick to claim that it was doctored. Nonetheless, Acosta has had his press pass removed.
The President has now insisted that the video distributed by Sanders was simply a “close-up” and “was not doctored”. He also appeared to threaten to revoke the White House press credentials of more reporters.
“Nobody manipulated it. All that is is a close-up,” the President said before attacking the reporter who asked the question and calling him “dishonest”.
A frame-by-frame comparison with an Associated Press video of the incident at Trump’s post-midterms news conference on Wednesday last week shows that the video tweeted by Sanders appears to speed up CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s arm movement when he makes contact with a White House intern who was trying to take away his microphone.
The speed-up appears to make the gesture more threatening.
Trump, speaking on Friday, also did not back off his administration’s decision to suspend Acosta’s press credentials, which allows the CNN correspondent access to the White House grounds.
“He’s a very unprofessional guy. I don’t think he’s a smart person but he has a loud voice,” Trump told reporters in a testy 20-plus-minute exchange before he left for Paris and a First World War commemoration ceremony.
“You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat the presidency with respect.”
He said he had not decided if Acosta’s pass would be reinstated and suggested there “could be others” who lose their credentials.
He belittled several reporters gathered around him, saying one had asked “a stupid question”, and singling out April Ryan, a correspondent for Urban Radio Networks, calling her “very nasty” and “a loser”.
Ryan, who is also a CNN contributor, tweeted in response: “I love this country and have the most respect for the Office of the President. I will continue to ask the questions that affect America, all of America.”
Trump’s latest attacks on the media came after his free-wheeling and contentious news conference two days earlier, and followed demands by several journalists and organisations – including the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the White House Correspondents Association – for the reinstatement of Acosta’s press pass.
“It is the essential function of a free press in every democracy to independently gather and report information in the public interest, a right that is enshrined in the First Amendment,” said Julie Pace, AP’s Washington bureau chief.
“We strongly reject the idea that any administration would block a journalist’s access to the White House.”
Despite losing his White House pass, Acosta travelled to Paris to cover Trump’s trip to meet world leaders.