Toronto: Jim Acosta Says Donald Trump Is a "Marketing Genius"

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Jim Acosta

"'You are fake news' sort of became the new 'You're fired,'" CNN's chief White House correspondent told the Content Canada conference during the Toronto International Film Festival.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta may be the face of "fake news" for Donald Trump.

But the president's pointed attacks on CNN and its White House point-man have also convinced Acosta that Trump is talented when it comes to branding and marketing. "Trump is a branding expert. He is a marketing genius to some extent," Acosta told C21's Content Canada conference in Toronto.

With the Toronto International Film Festival in surrounding downtown Toronto streets as a backdrop, the CNN reporter said Trump, known for his declarations of "You're fired!" on his earlier NBC reality series The Apprentice, had found a new elimination phrase for his White House reign.

"'You are fake news' sort of became the new 'You're fired," Acosta argued. He added, "We've not had a president of the United States who has pushed peoples' buttons in this way, in my lifetime. Because of that, you're seeing some dark forces gathered in the U.S. with these tactics."

An even greater worry for Acosta, who brought his evangelism for the Fourth Estate to Canada, is that while Trump uses media-bashing as a political branding and marketing tool, some may see it as a green light to target journalists for harm. 

"I don't think [Trump] sees it as inciting people to commit violence against journalists. What he doesn't realize is not everyone is in on the act," Acosta told the conference. "It only takes one person who is not grounded in the real world and who might think it's a good idea to take a shot at a journalist" to deal serious harm to the U.S. tradition of a free press, he added.

How close is the U.S. and its increasingly divisive political climate to that possible violence? "I think we're getting closer. If I'm going to be the guy who calls them out and tries to get at the truth in the White House, I'm not going to come here and lie to you. Yes, that is a real possibility and it worries me," Acosta said.

The CNN White House reporter did strike a more optimistic tone when he urged Canadians to keep the faith with their neighbors, despite the political instability they are witnessing on their doorstep. "I would say to my friends in Canada, don't lose faith in the United States. Have some faith that your neighbors to the south will get through this and will get things right," Acosta said.