Sanders Clashes with CNN’s Acosta, Other Hostile Reporters in Briefing

Hallie Jackson of NBC/MSNBC and Jonathan Karl of ABC also wanted to know if Trump accepts blame for political violence

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders battled CNN’s Jim Acosta and other White House correspondents in sharp exchanges during Monday’s media briefing, on whether political violence is caused by President Donald Trump’s criticism of “fake news” as “the enemy of the people.”

“Shouldn’t you reserve the term ‘enemy’ for people who are actually the enemy of the United States, rather than journalists?” Acosta (pictured above left) asked, referring to a Monday tweet from Trump.

The president wrote, “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame … of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!”

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Sanders (above center) replied that Trump is “not referencing all media” — just “the growing amount of fake news that exists in the country.”

Acosta tried to goad Sanders into stating “for the record” which news outlets and journalists “that you and the president regard as the enemy of the people.”

Sanders shut down the CNN reporter’s request, spurring Acosta to ask her whether the “fake news” list includes “my outlet, which received the bomb last week?”

A package containing a crude explosive device was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, which prompted evacuation of CNN’s New York bureau, housed within the building.

Brennan actually works as an analyst for NBC.

Federal authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man, on Friday and charged him with mailing over a dozen devices intended for CNN, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others.

Many mainstream media members and Democrats suggested Trump and his tough rhetoric were to blame for the mail bomb targeting — even before Sayoc’s identity was revealed.

CNN president Jeff Zucker actually targeted Trump and Sanders in a statement last week: “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media.”

“I think it is sad and divisive the way that every single thing that comes out of the media … is negative about this president.”

“The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” Zucker added.

After Sanders refused to list specific outlets and journalists, Acosta pressed further: “Shouldn’t you have the guts, Sarah, to state which outlets, which journalists, are the enemy of the people?”

Sanders said it was “outrageous” and “irresponsible of a news organization like yours to blame” both Trump and his administration “for those heinous acts.”

Acosta was hardly alone in his cross-examination of Sanders; many reporters appear to assume Trump is at least partially to blame for the string of suspicious packages, and some wondered why Trump won’t admit they are correct and apologize for his rhetoric.

“But at what point does a national tragedy take precedence over the president needing to punch back? If not now, when?” Hallie Jackson of NBC News (above right) wanted to know.

Sanders replied, “This is a president who has risen to that occasion and worked to bring our country together on a number of occasions.”

Jackson was not convinced. “But both he and you have also acknowledged that in the next breath, after he calls for unity, he does talk about division in what you describe as drawing contrast. Is he incapable, in the words of some, of ‘toning it down’ and toning down the rhetoric?”

An exasperated Sanders pointed out that 90 percent of the coverage of Trump has been negative — and she repeated that CNN and other media organizations immediately blamed Trump for the violence.

“Once again, I’ll remind you that the very first thing the president did was condemn the attacker and the very first thing the media did was blame the president,” Sanders told Jackson, adding, “You guys have a huge responsibility to play in the divisive nature of this country.”

“And if anything, I think it is sad and divisive the way that every single thing that comes out of the media … is negative about this president,” Sanders added.

Related: Sanders Rebukes CNN’s Zucker for Choosing ‘to Attack and Divide’

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl began the pile-on at the briefing’s opening, asking Sanders if Trump harbored “any concern at all that his words could inspire or provoke troubled people to do awful things?”

“He’s also harshly attacked some of the very people that received those pipe bombs, and this morning suggesting that the news media is responsible for the anger in the country,” Karl said. “How does he do that when, in the case of pipe bombers, this was somebody who went to Trump rallies, this is somebody who had a van covered with attacks on the media and praise for the president?”

“The very first thing that the president did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs. The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts,” Sanders retorted. “That is outrageous that that would be the very first reaction of so many people across this country. The only persons responsible for carrying out either of these heinous acts were the individuals who carried them out.”

Sanders also alluded to Zucker’s statement, saying, “The major news network’s first public statement was to blame the president and myself included. I mean, that is outrageous that anybody other than the individual who carried out the crime would hold that responsibility.”

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