The press conference beamed directly across the country. The country's leader bowed above the podium before journalists. Jim Acosta from CNN gripped the microphone and issued a difficult question.
"Why do you have Cuban political prisoners?" Tanya Acosta. "And why don't you let them go?"
It was March 2016 in Havana. Then President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro held a joint press conference to mark the American president's historic visit to the island nation. Castro, the leader of a long-known oppressive regime, who likes to silence disputes and suppress the press, is clearly uncomfortable asking questions from a reporter. As the New York Times reported at the time, this was the first time a foreign journalist had spoken to Cuban leaders since the 1950s.
But the handlers did not swoop to take the Acosta microphone. The reporter – whose own father is a Cuban exile – was not transported out of the room. His trust is not tossed around. Instead, the Cuban leader grumbled without answers. "Give me a list of political prisoners and I will immediately release them," Castro said.
Fast forward two years, and Acosta experienced a very different experience on Wednesday, at odds with the president's power in the air.
Following the mixed results of this week's midterm elections, President Trump held a press conference that quickly went down into a grudge match with full contact against Democrats, failed Republican candidates and the press.
"CNN should be ashamed of themselves because you work for them," Trump blared to Acosta after the reporter asked a question about the president's inflammatory rhetoric on immigration. "You are rude, a terrible person. You are not supposed to work for CNN. "
Hours later, Acosta announced the White House had suspended its press credentials. In a statementWhite House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Acosta had lost his hard bait after "putting his hand on a young woman" who tried to take the reporter's microphone during his test back and forth with Trump.
"This is a lie," said Acosta in twitter, then explained to CNN & # 39; s Anderson Cooper that the White House "was trying to extinguish us. I thought they were trying to send a message to my colleague."
Acosta 's resignation has created a firestorm in the media – and attracted a lot of press focus from the midterm results and the sudden dismissal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This is also the latest cycle in the complicated relations of journalists with administration. Depending on your political lines, this is a dangerous attack on the First Amendment, or a reporter's revenge.
Since 2016, Acosta has been one of the highest profile members of the corps, regularly debating with government officials, such as Sanders and White House adviser Stephen Miller. For Trump – who repeatedly vent his anger on the press and CNN in particular – Acosta is a comfortable foil. But the bulldog reporter's style of reporting has made it a household name.
"I may receive more death threats than I can count," Acosta told Variety this year. "I get it once a week."
If there is a precursor to the Acosta style in the White House media landscape, that is Sam Donaldson. During the latter part of the Reagan administration, the president will leave for months between taking questions from the press. The ABC White Correspondent began questioning President Ronald Reagan during his public appearance.
"Donaldson has praised and highlighted because of his aggressive reports to the President who were distant, because they shouted questions at Reagan with a megaphone that could be heard even on helicopter rotors when Reagan left for Camp David," wrote the Christian Science Monitor. in 1987.
Acosta, who grew up in Washington, D.C., area and graduated from James Madison University, first landed on CNN in 2007 after several years working for local television stations and networks. For networking, he began covering political news, including Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign and Obama's White House, according to Politico's profile published last year.
The first memorable remarks from reporters with Trump set the stage for many of their relationships later on. In May 2016, Acosta asked them candidates about media attention.
"I have watched you on television," Trump answered. "You are really pretty."
Acosta has not wilted when facing Jeremy Trump against his press coverage. On the contrary, like his meeting with Castro, he was multiplied by challenging Trump's statement in a confrontation in the air filled with tensions and anger that were barely buried – a ready TV exchange that perfectly summarized the president's full relations with the press. "When the president of the United States calls the press" fake news "and" enemy of the American people, "… I think that's when you have to be tough and ask difficult questions," Acosta told The Washington Post in 2017.
A perfect example arrived just days before Trump's inauguration in January 2017, when reporters and elected presidents made allegations contained in Steele's famous document published by BuzzFeed.
"Not you. Your organization is very bad," Trump told Acosta, when reporters tried to ask questions.
"Because you attacked us, can you give us a question? The President is elected, because you attack our news organization, can you give us a chance? "The reporter answered.
"I won't give you a question," Trump replied. "You are fake news."
Since then, Acosta has regularly discussed with Trump. After the "United Right" hate rally in Charlottesville last year, Acosta examined Trump when the president stated there were "some very good people on both sides."
"No, sir, there are no good people in the Nazis," replied Acosta.
Journalists also cast sharp questions on Trump during the presidential summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June. The exchange prompted Trump 2020 2020 leader Brad Parscale to ask Acosta to "immediately have his press credentials suspended."
Acosta patted a short answer in twitter.
"Dear Brad," he wrote. "[D]dictatorship takes press credentials. Not democracy. "