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Jim Acosta stopped by The Late Show on Wednesday, where he discussed his recent clashes with the Trump administration and the president himself, who has dismissed the reporter’s outlet, CNN, as “fake news” multiple times.
Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for the network, has been in headlines recently for challenging press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to condemn Trump’s comments that the press is the “enemy of the people” in a heated exchange. Acosta received some backlash due to the argument, with The Atlantic staff writer Todd Purdum calling his line of questioning “a dangerous brand of performance journalism.”
Acosta has also been targeted specifically by Trump, who has told the reporter “I don’t take questions from CNN,” called his outlet “fake news” multiple times and ordered him out of a room where other reporters were present during a January meeting with the president of Kazakhstan. (Still, he called Acosta a “actually a nice guy” in a July tweet.)
Host Stephen Colbert kicked off his conversation with Acosta, who was wearing red, white and blue socks for the occasion, by noting that he’s been singled out by the president and has gotten a reputation for pushing back. Colbert then asked whether Acosta was an outlier. “No,” Acosta responded. “We’re all fed up with the treatment that we’re receiving and I’m not the only one to speak out about this.”
When asked why he particularly has a heated relationship with Trump, Acosta said that Trump started calling CNN “fake news” at a press conference when Acosta asked Trump about the Christopher Steele dossier suggesting Russia has incriminating information on Trump. When Trump called him and his outlet “fake news” then, and whenever he does after, Acosta said, “I look at that as he’s calling on me for a question, so I am going to push back.”
The journalist also speculated that Trump dislikes CNN because the network has turned its journalists into “fact-checkers in real time” amid the Trump administration. “The foundation of his political career was built on a lie, that Barack Obama was not born in this country,” Acosta said.
Colbert then addressed an August 1 Trump rally in which Acosta was heckled and booed by Trump supporters in Tampa Bay, Florida, a moment that was caught on camera and which Acosta documented on Twitter. Does he lose heart given this reaction to his work, Colbert asked? When Acosta said “no,” Colbert then asked the question a different way, questioning what he feels when Trump supporters ignore the reporting that holds Trump to account.
“That is a difficult problem,” Acosta began. At the Tamp rally, he said, “What I did was I stepped down from the risers and talked to these folks. A lot of folks, they’re well-intentioned.” He added that “as you talk to these folks, they sort of calm down. But a lot of these folks they get a sense of what we do from other conservative outlets … they’re more concerned with the coverage of the president than what he does.”
Colbert then asked whether the CNN reporter worried that he ends up being the story. “Right, and we’re not supposed to be the story, that’s not what I’m out there,” Acosta said. “I gets accused of that from time to time, and I say, ‘Look, I’m allowed to care about this country as much as anyone else.'”
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