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Ari Fleischer Says He ‘Cannot Defend Jim Acosta’

Former White House press secretary said CNN reporter whose press pass was revoked hasn't been a 'fair and neutral questioner'

Ari Fleischer (shown above left) rebuked CNN’s Jim Acosta for his behavior during Wednesday’s contentious briefing with President Donald Trump, saying that he “cannot defend” Acosta because he is not a “fair and neutral questioner.”

The White House yanked press credentials from Acosta (above right) after his controversial conduct during the fiery briefing.

The CNN reporter began his question to the president by saying he wanted to “challenge” him on his decision to call the latest Central American migrant caravan traveling to the U.S. up through Mexico an “invasion.”

“As you know, Mr. President, the caravan was not an invasion. It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the U.S.,” Acosta said, pushing his own personal opinion.

Acosta also wanted to know why Trump “demonized immigrants” in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, suggesting — though he didn’t actually say so — that it was some kind of political ploy.

Trump said that he wanted people to “come in legally” and that they would need to go through a legal process to be in this country.

“Honestly, I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN, and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump eventually told Acosta before trying to move along to another reporter.

But Acosta initially refused to give up the microphone to anyone else — and continued asking questions of Trump.

“That’s enough. That’s enough … Put down the mic,” Trump snapped.

The president also said, “CNN should be ashamed of itself [for] having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN … You’re a very rude person.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted on Wednesday that Acosta’s media pass had been revoked because the White House cannot tolerate a reporter “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”

Sanders tweeted a video, which later was revealed to have been doctored to appear worse, showing Acosta apparently swatting away the female intern when she tried to take his microphone away.

“We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video,” Sanders wrote.

Sanders said the conduct was “absolutely unacceptable,” adding that it also was “completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question.”

Fleischer, who served in former President George W. Bush’s administration and is now a Fox News contributor, said Thursday on “American’s Newsroom” that the White House should not have revoked Acosta’s press pass over the “physical contact” shown in various videos.

“Number one, there was no physical contact that was anything bothersome. You know, that was incidental contact and I think that was a false reason for pulling his pass,” Fleischer said before insisting that the White House was right to revoke Acosta’s pass for other reasons.

“Jim Acosta has had a long history of being an editorial writer in that room — not a fair and neutral questioner. Tough questions, challenging questions, are the job of White House reporters. But when he starts giving his opinion and using that podium as the place to do it, it’s wrong,” Fleischer said.

“And that’s why the White House did this, and I support that. I cannot defend Jim Acosta,” Fleischer added. “When he says to the president of the United States in the middle of a news conference, ‘It’s not an invasion,’ that’s his opinion.”

Related: White House Suspends Jim Acosta’s Press Credentials

If Acosta “wants to be an editorial writer” or a columnist or the host of a nighttime television show — then “more power to him,” Fleischer also said.

“But that is not the job of White House reporters. And I think the White House finally got fed up with him using his perch at the White House to give personal opinions,” Fleischer concluded.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the White House’s decision on Fox News, saying, “There are journalists here at the White House in the White House press corps who every single day try to do their job by getting the story.”

“Others try to get the president. They shall remain nameless right now. And I think that some people like to grandstand and be part of the story, there is no question about that. We hear that from other journalists,” Conway added.

Many mainstream media members and reporters expressed their outrage at the revoking of Acosta’s pass, and CNN publicly stood firmly by its reporter without reprimanding him for his conduct.

“This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support,” the CNN communications department said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].