The White House has suspended the press pass of CNN reporter Jim Acosta following an angry exchange with Donald Trump.
The pair – who have clashed in the past – locked horns at a press conference following the results of the US midterms.
Acosta asked the President about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern US border and then tried to follow up with another question about about the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
Trump shouted: “That’s enough!” and a female White House aide tried to grab the microphone from the reporter.
Video footage appears to show Acosta blocking the female aide’s arm from taking the microphone, saying to her, ‘Pardon me, ma’am,’ as he continued to fire the question at Trump.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was criticised after she retweeted a doctored clip of the incident that was broadcast by American cable network C-Span.
The clip, that was tweeted by Paul Joseph Watson, a host for right-wing conspiracy site InfoWars, appears to speed up the moment Acosta’s hand comes down on the White House intern – making it appear to be a hard karate chop.’
Ms Sanders released a statement accusing the CNN reporter of ‘placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,’ calling it ‘absolutely unacceptable’.
Announcing Acosta’s suspension, Ms Sanders said: ‘The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it is an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this administration.’
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Acosta tweeted that Ms Sanders’s statement that he put his hands on the aide was ‘a lie’.
CNN said in a statement that the White House revoked Acosta’s press pass out of ‘retaliation for his challenging questions’, and the network accused Ms Sanders of lying about Acosta’s actions.
They said: ‘(Sanders) provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better.
‘Jim Acosta has our full support.’
Journalists assigned to cover the White House apply for passes that allow them daily access to press areas in the West Wing.
White House staff decide whether journalists are eligible, and the Secret Service determines whether their applications are approved.
The post-midterm election news conference was marked by angry clashes with journalists from several organisations.
‘It’s such a hostile media,’ Trump said after ordering reporter April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks to sit down when she tried to ask him a question.
The President complained that the media did not cover the growing economy and was responsible for much of the country’s divided politics.
He said: ‘I can do something fantastic, and they make it look not good.’
Acosta asked Trump why the caravan of migrants was emphasised as an issue in the just-concluded midterm races.
He questioned Trump’s reference to the caravan as an invasion, but Trump defended the term, telling him: ‘You should let me run the country.
‘You run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.’
After Acosta asked about the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, Trump tried to turn to another reporter, but Acosta continued to ask questions.
Trump told him: ‘CNN should be ashamed of itself having you work for them.
‘You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.
‘The way you treat Sarah Sanders is horrible. The way you treat other people is horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.’
Acosta, now without a microphone, stood up and mentioned the explosive devices that were recently sent to CNN and some of the President’s political opponents.
Trump fired back at him: ‘Just sit down. When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.’
After the exchange, CNN said that Trump’s attacks on the press have gone too far, calling them ‘dangerous’ and ‘un-American’.
The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) released a statement saying it ‘strongly objects to the Trump Administration’s decision to use US Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship.’
They called on the White House to ‘immediately reverse this weak and misguided action’.