Prompted for a reaction to the administration’s decision last week to pull Acosta’s credentials following a combative exchange with President Donald Trump, Stephenson mounted a defense of Acosta.
“If the White House wants to pull someone’s press credentials, there is a process,” Stephenson said in an interview this evening during the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech D. Live conference in Laguna Beach. “That process was not followed.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Acosta’s conduct at a post-election press conference “absolutely unacceptable.” She said he refused to hand over a microphone to a White House intern while he was asking questions of the president. Sanders said the administration will “never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”
Video of the exchange show Acosta saying “pardon me, ma’m,” when she reached for the mic.
More than a half dozen advocacy groups, from the Committee to Protect Journalists to the ACLU, have condemned the White House’s action and demanded that Acosta’s hard pass, which speeds access to the White House, be reinstated.
Stephenson added his voice in support of Acosta. He said that if the White House revoked access because the president disliked the questions posed, “that seems to be violative of the freedom of the press.”
Even if it objected to Acosta’s conduct in the press room, Stephenson said, “there’s a process.” He added that CNN is “addressing this directly,” without specifying what actions the news organization was taking.