If Jim Acosta Can’t Respect Trump, He Must Respect the Presidency

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It’s clear that CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta has no respect for himself, Donald Trump, or the age-old profession of journalism. That’s all well and good. But if he’s going to be on the grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doing his little audition for a prime time CNN show, he needs to at least show some respect for the office of the presidency. That’s the least we can ask for someone who has the immense privilege of reporting from the White House, and there’s no reason it should not be part and parcel with the position Acosta has as a reporter.

A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of Acosta and CNN, ordering the White House to give the reporter back his Secret Service hard pass but declining the rule on the broader First Amendment implications of the case. Judge Timothy Kelly instead used legal precedent to declare that Acosta was entitled to due process, meaning that while the White House may have the right to bar reporters from the premises, they must at least explain themselves and allow the reporter to respond in kind. There is nothing in the ruling prohibiting the White House from doing just that the next time Acosta violates the rules of decorum the way he did last Wednesday.

The next time, in fact, there may be specific rules in place that will give every reporter – Acosta, included – a clear roadmap of what will and won’t be tolerated at White House press conferences. In the wake of the court ruling, both President Trump and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders intimated that such rules were being drawn up.

“People have to behave,” Trump said on Friday. “If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations, we’ll end up back in court, and we will win.”

The White House is free to continue litigating the case with CNN; Judge Kelly went out of his way to note that he was not ruling on any First Amendment grounds. The White House – and most anyone with even a basic grasp on the Constitution – says that there is nothing in the First Amendment that gives a reporter unrestrained access to the president. Because of course there isn’t. Otherwise, the White House could be sued every time they tackle (or shoot) someone who hops the fence and tries to access the West Wing.

The ball is now in Jim Acosta’s court, though, and it’s up to him to prove that he either did or did not learn a lesson from this little incident. Our bet is that he will feel more emboldened than ever. If so, he may find that the next time he gets barred from the White House, the court will not be quite so sympathetic with his case.