Acosta: Press Is 'Not Supposed to Be the Story; That's Not Why I'm out There'

August 9, 2018

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta appeared on "The Late Show" Wednesday night where he defended his combative style of journalism exhibited while covering the Trump White House.

"[President Trump] said 'you're fake news,' and to me, when you insult our news organization and call us fake news, that's calling on me for a question," Acosta told host Stephen Colbert. "He refers to CNN as fake news. I look at that as he's calling on me for a question, so I am going to push back."

Acosta said journalists have to correct President Donald Trump in real time and mentioned some of the more notable false statements Trump has told during his presidency, citing the president's claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped him at Trump Tower and his claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted in the 2016 election.

"The foundation of [Trump's] political career was built on a lie that Barack Obama was not born in this country," Acosta said. "So listen, you know these are tough times. There are some real tough questions to be asked. But I don't, I don't think we do ourselves any good, Stephen, if we shy away from these hard questions."

"My goodness, the way I look at it is–and this is the debate I have with my fellow journalists when we talk about this–what if we just did nothing? Do we just sit back and do nothing in the face of that?" Acosta said.

Acosta said based on his talks with Trump supporters, they're well-intentioned and really care about the country.

He said they ask him why the press doesn't report good things Trump is doing for the country and he tells them the media does report more than negative stories.

"A lot of these folks get their impression of what we do by watching other conservative outlets," he said.

The White House reporter said Trump's supporters are more focused on the coverage of the president's behavior than the president's actual behavior.

Colbert asked Acosta if he worried the president points to the press so much that the media becomes the story, noting "that's not really the goal of your journalism."

"Right, and we're not supposed to be the story; that's not why I'm out there," Acosta said. "I get accused of that from time to time. And my attitude is, listen, I'm allowed to care about this country just as much as anybody else."

He then attacked Trump for "demonizing immigrants" and separating children from their parents at the border.

Wednesday night, before joining Colbert's show, Acosta tweeted he was ready to bring "#realnews" to "The Late Show."

Acosta has an ongoing contentious relationship with Trump and his administration. Trump has called him "fake news," and the reporter has pushed back on the president's assertion the press is the "enemy of the people." Acosta pressured Sanders last week over Trump's frequent criticisms of the media, asking her to publicly declare that the press was not the "enemy of the American people."