Jim Acosta is (Still) Wrong

May 17, 2019

Evergreen headline, but today's proof stems from a tweet the CNN reporter sent yesterday.

Sounds believable, certainly. But the problem, as I reported yesterday, is it wasn't true. In context, Trump clearly wasn't "[painting] asylum seekers with [a] broad brush," he was saying that a distinct subset of asylum seekers were making fraudulent claims and those fake claims were hurting those who made legitimate claims.

"We must also restore the integrity of our broken asylum system. Our nation has a proud history of affording protection to those fleeing government persecutions. Unfortunately legitimate asylum seekers are being displaced by those lodging frivolous claims—these are frivolous claims—to gain admission into our country. Asylum abuse also strains our public school systems, our hospitals, our local shelters, using funds that we should and that have to go to elderly veterans, at-risk youth, Americans in poverty and those in genuine need of protection. We're using the funds that should be going to them and that shouldn't happen. ... My plan expedites relief for legitimate asylum-seekers by screening out the meritless claims. If you have a proper claim, you will quickly be admitted. If you don't, you will promptly be returned home." [Emphasis added]

This is as clear as you're going to get from Trump (he was speaking from a teleprompter, naturally). He stressed the need to crack down on certain asylum seekers, but framed the issue largely as a way to help legitimate asylum seekers. Whether or not you agree with Trump or his policy, it's clear that Acosta was way off.

Mistakes happen, especially when you're trying to summarize a live speech in a certain amount of characters. I don't really fault Acosta for that ... or at least I didn't at first. I expected him to ignore the thousands of people ratio-ing his tweet (it's currently sitting at 10 Ioffes), or perhaps to delete it and send a "clarification." I certainly didn't expect him to admit an error: this is Acosta we're talking about.

But I also didn't expect his eventual response, which was to double-down after the Trump campaign attacked him for it.

So this is the point where it becomes clear that Acosta was not mistaken, but actively deceptive. Acosta did not merely tweet that Trump was "accusing asylum seekers of misleading immigration authorities," he accused him of implying that ALL asylum seekers were by "[painting] with [a] broad brush. I find it hard to believe he's too thick to recognize the difference between ... okay, no, maybe he is, but the point is, he's probably just lying.

Worse, Acosta then chose to retweet this from Tommy Christopher.

What this argument amounts to is that, because Trump has made broad claims about asylees in the past, ipso facto Acosta was correct that he did so in the Rose Garden. Not so much a leap in logic as teleportation. If this is the best defense of his tweet, that's rather pathetic.

I should also note that Tommy (a former colleague of mine at Mediaite; never met him in person, but I've heard nice things) is considered a bit of a crank, albeit a lovable one. Among his other opinions, he once wrote that Mitt Romney's slogan "Obama Isn’t Working" was a racist dog whistle and that he refuses to eat watermelons because of the racist stereotype. A mainstream reporter citing him for vindication is about as embarrassing as doing the same with Louise Mensch or Jack Probe-stick, whatever his name is.

Acosta is an easy target, but I also pick on him because he has spent the bulk of the Trump era branding himself as a guy who cares about his truth. "I believe in #realnews," it says, right in his Twitter bio. "A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America," is the subtitle of his upcoming book. I'm not sure how he knows that.

Published under: CNN , Jim Acosta