Behold the man who dared to ask a question of our incoming President while working for a network that mentioned there was an embarrassing dossier of information out there about the President-elect. His name is Jim Acosta. He is a Cuban-American and the Senior White House Correspondent for CNN. I don't know him. I don't particularly like CNN very much. But when I heard the news availability (I hardly call what I listened to a 'press conference'), I was shocked and shaken by the way Acosta was shouted down and shut out by the next supposed leader of the free world.
The President-elect, or PEEOTUS as I have been calling him, wasn't going to let Acosta say anything because the PEEOTUS didn't appreciate the coverage of a leaked document detailing the depth of his ties to Russia, and his strange sexual proclivities involving Russian prostitutes and urine. PEEOTUS singled out CNN from all the other networks that had mentioned the existence of these documents because, it seems, he didn't think they did enough to discredit the information by saying "unverified" hundred times. Acosta attempted to ask a question, but PEEOTUS wagged his finger at him.
"Not you. Your organization is terrible. You are fake news!"
"You are attacking us, can we have a question?" Acosta kept shouting back.
No. No, they could not. And as the two men kept yelling, the PEEOTUS peanut gallery applauded, egging on their bully to show this reporter who was gonna be boss here from now on.
I listened to all of this while I was driving and I felt the hairs going up on the back of my neck. As a former journalist, it was maddening. As an American citizen, it was frightening.
Verbal beat downs of reporters by politicians and other people with inflated ideas of their power is nothing new. And it isn't limited to those on the extreme right-wing of the political spectrum. This past year, Move On or some other group was cheering how Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders schooled "the lamestream media" at a news availability in Iowa. A female reporter had asked about Sanders "outsider" label when he'd, in fact, been involved in politics and a member of Congress for years. In a classic moment of misogyny, Sanders smiled and ignored her...but accepted the same question from a male reporter so he could blast away; thus making Bern-feelers very happy that their hero had told off the media. Back in 2000, when Sen. Kendrick Meek and Rep. Tony Hill held a sit-in at the Capitol over Gov. Jeb! Bush's proposals to end affirmative action in state government, the Governor was caught on tape angrily declaring to his staff member: "Throw their asses out!" Later, after that tape went international, Bush explained he wasn't talking about the two state legislators; he was referring to the members of the media who were ensconced with Meek and Hill in the Lieutenant Governor's office. That was supposed to make it all better, I suppose.
Everyone loves to hate the media because they are the messengers who tell us what our leaders are doing. And that is precisely why we need journalists to keep on the job and remaining vigilant in their pursuit of answers to tough questions. A free press is the threat to a tyrant and a dictator because they want to control every aspect of life...especially what the public is allowed to know. The best journalists are the ones who bring to our attention the uncomfortable and unsettling truths about what's happening in our communities, our country and the world; otherwise, we run the risk of being naïve and blind to problems that need addressing. The fact that an Mi6 report exists, unverified or whatever, that suggests the incoming President of the United States is a little too cozy with a long-time enemy of American democracy is news worthy. It is not fake. "Fake news" is the supermarket tabloids that spent the past eight years publishing unflattering photos of the First Family who was our first-ever African-American First Family. "Fake news" is ultra-white supremacist Breitbart, whose leader, Steve Bannon, is now going to be only footsteps away from the Oval Office.
Last week, the goat was Jim Acosta. But it won't stop there. What I heard in that exchange was a warning shot across the bow of every news organization that if you dare question the PEEOTUS, or bring to light that he is a liar, an incompetent, and a mentally sick individual, you will be shouted down and shut out. You may not even get credentials to cover the PEEOTUS. This isn't the time for the media to reign it in. We need our free press to step on the gas and wear it as a badge of honor if they get yelled at or kicked out of the room. We need our media to close ranks against this bullying and defend their colleagues when this abusive behavior happens again because it will. We need this because these are the people's people who are the eyes and ears bearing witness, up-close and personal, so that we can know what's happening. They are our surrogates. God help us if we lose that freedom of the press.