Accuracy in Media

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta tried to ask President Donald Trump a “gotcha” question at yesterday’s press conference, but the question fell flat on its face.

Acosta and Trump have verbally sparred during Trump’s first term on various issues, such as a back-and-forth argument about a Central American migrant caravan which led to the White House suspending his credentials in November 2018.

Acosta asked:

“This may be an uncomfortable question: What would the models have looked like if Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci showed us. If we had started these social distancing guidelines sooner, February or January, when China, South Korea were doing those sorts of things…if we started these practices sooner, could these models be different right now?”

Trump answered and defended his administration’s decision-making, noting that his “big decision” was to stop travel from China in the same timeframe Acosta had mentioned. Trump added that the United States “got a late start,” in addition to explaining that the coronavirus’s spread was unpredictable across various regions in the country.

Acosta’s question inferred that the infection and death counts would have been different if the Trump administration acted earlier to impose travel restrictions, quarantines, social distancing guidelines, and stay-at-home orders. It was an attempted “gotcha” question meant to place more blame on Trump for allegedly not preventing the current infection and fatality rates in the United States. His question assumed that infection and fatality rates would have been different if the Trump administration had imposed restrictions earlier, but that is also pure conjecture without factual evidence. It was wrong for Acosta to ask his misleading question because it did not add any facts or data to the discussion about the virus’s potential spread in the next several weeks. Instead, Acosta’s attempt to score political points fell flat.

Acosta’s history with Trump is well-documented, with Politico calling Acosta the “chief antagonist for a network that styles itself as Trump’s chief antagonist.”

Though CNN and Acosta won the case to have his press credentials reinstated, it was not the first time that Acosta aggressively questioned the president. His latest question demonstrated his antagonistic approach to Trump’s press conferences, which may make for good television ratings and soundbites, but the American public does not gain knowledge from Acosta-Trump exchanges.

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