CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, known for his rough-and-tumble verbal battles with President Donald Trump, likely raised eyebrows among CNN viewers on Tuesday night when he praised the president’s new tone at the latest White House press briefing, claiming “this was a different Trump.”
Just days after pushing for coronavirus restrictions to be loosened by Easter so as to reopen the economy, the president admitted on Tuesday that at least 100,000 Americans would likely die from COVID-19 and Americans had a “very tough two weeks” ahead of them.
During the briefing, Acosta asked whether projections of up to 200,000 deaths would be lower if Trump had acted sooner, prompting the president to insist that he did act early. Though Acosta would continue to press him on whether he waited too long to take the pandemic seriously, Trump did not spar with his longtime nemesis, even noting at one point that Acosta’s question was “fair.”
Appearing on CNN later in the evening, Acosta told anchor Anderson Cooper that the president and the rest of the White House coronavirus task force delivered a sober message to the public that they’ll need to be prepared for a heavy death toll.
Saying this was the “most stunning briefing” he ever sat through, calling it “downright chilling,” Acosta said he had “never seen President Trump like this” and insisted he believes that the president is “scared right now” and everyone in that room could feel it.
After noting that he tried to ask Trump and the coronavirus task force members if a lack of preparedness resulted in the grim casualty projections, only to get mixed answers, Acosta then credited the president for seemingly understanding how dire the situation now is.
“The stark message we got in the briefing room this evening is unmistakable,” the CNN reporter said. “This country is about to go through a horrendous terrible experience, and I have to tell you, people may not believe the president when he says any of this, and I have been—you and I have been, you know, pretty critical of him from time to time.”
“Yeah,” Cooper replied.
“This was a different Donald Trump tonight,” Acosta concluded. “I think he gets it, Anderson.”
“We'll see,” a skeptical Cooper reacted.
The CNN correspondent wasn’t the only political reporter to come away impressed by the president’s perceived change in tone. “Trump sounding different today,” The New York Times’ Eric Lipton tweeted during the briefing. “Scale of death appears to have changed his tone, at least.”
Acosta saying Trump finally “gets it” comes after fellow White House reporter, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, blasted Acosta over his pugnacious and combative style, saying that while he’d defend Acosta’s “right to report” he doesn’t think “we should act like we are part of the resistance.”