Editorial: Trump's war with CNN and Jim Acosta

  • President Donald Trump rebukes CNN reporter Jim Acosta during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7.

    President Donald Trump rebukes CNN reporter Jim Acosta during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7. Associated Press Photo

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted11/14/2018 1:00 AM

The other day when the White House revoked the press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, our minds hearkened back to the history lessons from our youth and President John Adams' unfortunate embrace of the Alien and Sedition Acts of the republic's infancy.

Like virtually every president since, Adams had an adversarial relationship with the press. He was, by most accounts, tremendously thin skinned, believed that newspapers treated him unfairly and viewed the Fourth Estate as a hindrance to his ability to govern.


Don't get us wrong. We view Adams' kindly as one of the most instrumental founders of the nation and perhaps one of the nation's most human presidents.

But his distrust of the press represented his overarching distrust of the people, and this lack of faith ultimately was Adams' undoing.

The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 were, most historians agree, among the most heinous and cynical laws a U.S. president ever signed and a stain on Adams' legacy. Most of those laws expired, although the Alien Enemies Act, which was used during World War II to create Japanese internment camps, still remains in effect.

The laws cracked down on immigration, granted new powers to deport foreigners, severely suppressed public protest and, as ushistory.org outlines, made it a crime to "write, print, utter or publish ... any false, scandalous and malicious writing" against the government.

"As one Federalist in Congress declared, there was no need to 'invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all the world, to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquillity,'" ushistory.org notes.

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Does any of that sound familiar?

We are not, in this day and age, quite back to the Alien and Sedition Acts crackdown, but the mood fostered out of the Donald Trump White House treads dangerously close to it.

It is clear that President Trump is no fan of CNN or its White House correspondent Acosta. But there is great irony when Trump says the White House press corps must show respect for the president. This from a president who regularly abuses the news media, trying to intimidate reporters by calling them "racist" or their questions "stupid" or dangerously rallying crowds against them with "enemies of the people" insults.

Can the press scrum embarrass itself calling out questions while Trump heads to his helicopter? Sure, and we wish it showed better decorum.

But beyond that, Acosta and the White House press corps behave professionally and respectfully.

It's not their job to fawn.

It's their job to ask tough and sometimes uncomfortable questions of power.

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