CNN’s chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, stressed the dangers of recent attacks on the media in a public conversation Sept. 23 with Professor Julian Zelizer. Citing accusations of “fake news” and calls for violence against members of the press, Acosta urged the audience of nearly 400 people in McCosh 50 to become more “sophisticated consumers of information.”
“Young people are absorbing all of this right now — not just kids and teenagers, but college students are absorbing all this right now,” Acosta said. “It’s becoming this new normal: It’s OK for the president of the United States to refer to the press as the enemy of the people and so on.”
Addressing the older audience members in the crowd, he continued, “We know better. We know that this is not how it’s supposed to be.”
Acosta said he wrote his recent book, The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America, to provide an account of the dangers and experiences he has faced while covering the current presidential administration. He said he has received at least one death threat each week since the 2016 election.
“I wanted the public to know what we’ve been going through,” he said.
During the question-and-answer session, a student asked Acosta whether he had a “call to action” for college-age students.
“I’m a journalist, so I’m not going to call people to one side or another, but if you could subscribe to a newspaper, that’d be great,” Acosta said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Try to get as broad of an array of sources of information as you can, which I’m sure you already do.”
Though Acosta said he believes that the press is not responsible for the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, he told the crowd to expect more fact-checking and less live coverage in 2020.
“I grew up in a country where the president of the United States has always been subjected to pretty intense scrutiny,” Acosta said. “Yes, they can call us names. They can tweet out doctored videos. They can try to attack us, intimidate us, send death threats, and so on. We are not going to stop the free press in this country from doing its job. It is what people expect.”