White House Press Secretary, CNN Reporter Battle Over Trump's TV Habits

Jim Acosta and Sarah Huckabee Sanders -Split-Getty- H 2017
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"I'm sure you're disappointed he's not watching CNN," Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Jim Acosta.

Another day, another White House discussion about television ratings.

During Thursday's press briefing, CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether there is a "cause and effect" between the programming on Fox & Friends and President Trump's tweeting, a well-plumbed storyline.

"I'm sure you're disappointed he's not watching CNN," Sanders replied.

"I think he watches a lot of CNN, if you don't mind me saying," Acosta said.

"I don't think that's true," Sanders replied. "Your numbers would be higher." The crowd of White House reporters gasped at her response.

Acosta, who was just promoted by CNN, said of the network's ratings: "They're actually better than they've been in a long time." CNN announced last month that 2017 was the network's "most watched year ever," citing record-high ratings in daytime.

During a meeting on Wednesday in the White House's cabinet room, Trump said that his open-press meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday to discuss immigration policy received "phenomenal" reviews. Discussing television network coverage of the event, Trump said, "I'm sure their ratings were fantastic. They always are."

"It got great reviews by everybody other than two networks, who were phenomenal for about two hours," Trump said. "Then, after that, they were called by their bosses for saying, 'Oh, wait a minute.' And, unfortunately, a lot of those anchors sent us letters saying that was one of the greatest meetings they've ever witnessed. And they were great. For about two hours, they were phenomenal. And then they went a little bit south on us, but not that bad. It was fine." (The White House was not able to provide evidence that "letters" were sent.)

Trump also repeated a line he gave during a Dec. 28 interview with The New York Times, when he said that media companies will go out of business if he doesn't win reelection in 2020.