The White House contends Acosta was barred because he is a security risk. This claim is grounded on the absurd suggestion that the correspondent assaulted, or otherwise engaged in improper physical contact with, a White House intern. The intern tried, at the president’s behest, to rip a microphone out of Acosta’s hands mid-question during a post-election press conference on Wednesday, and Acosta inadvertently touched her arm in the process. The only “evidence” for the assault assertion is a manipulated video that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders obtained from a website maintained by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The president’s own words undermined the White House’s efforts to manufacture a constitutionally permissible rationale for Trump’s action. During the press conference, Trump repeatedly railed against CNN and Acosta, challenging Acosta’s qualifications as a journalist, as well as his personal qualities, and calling him a “rude, terrible person” who “should not be working for CNN.” Trump also volunteered that an NBC correspondent who had the temerity to vouch for Costa was “not the best.”