CNN was uncharacteristically tame in the network’s immediate fact-checking and analysis of President Trump’s Oval Office address on Tuesday, until the network’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta got involved.
Acosta, who was scolded by Kellyanne Conway earlier in the day, appeared after a subdued panel discussion led by Chris Cuomo and kicked things off with an out-of-place joke.
“That address probably should have come with a surgeon general’s warning, it was hazardous to the truth,” Acosta said, prompting an uncomfortable smirk from Cuomo.
“There were a number of claims that the president made in that speech that are just not going to the facts,” he continued. One of them being, this thing that he said over and over again that the new trade deal with Mexico is going to somehow pay for the wall.”
Acosta then noted that he'd expected the address to be “recycled rhetoric.”
“That’s pretty much what we got,” Acosta declared, noting that Trump has been describing immigrants as “criminals and killers and so on” since he first declared his political aspirations.
“Not much has changed in terms of the president’s rhetoric on this,” Acosta said, “He did say… Democrats asked for the steel barrier. … I just talked to a senior Democratic aide up on the Capitol Hill who said, ‘No, we as a party did not ask for a steel barrier.’”
Cuomo, brother of the Democratic governor of New York, reminded Acosta that Democrats “have financed steel barriers” in the past.
“It’s amazing how everyone is trying to forget the history here,” Cuomo said.
Acosta, who has emerged as a household name over occasions when Trump and members of his administration are made available to the press, asked Conway during a press gaggle prior to the briefing if Trump planned on telling the truth.
"Yes, Jim," Conway shot back, "Can you promise that you will? The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Am I allowed to mention 'God' to you?"
Acosta responded by telling Conway that he doesn’t have an “alternative facts” problem like she does.
"Make sure that goes viral. This is why I’m one of the only people around here who gives you the time of day," Conway said. "You’re such a smarta-- most of the time and I know you want this to go viral."
Conway then told Acosta that “a lot of these people” don’t like him, while pointing to his peers and asked the reporter not to call her “ma’am.”
Last year Acosta was briefly banned from the White House after he engaged in a contentious back-and-forth with Trump during a Nov. 7 press conference. During the now-infamous moment, Acosta refused to pass the microphone to a female White House aide.
Acosta’s press pass was restored on Nov. 19 after CNN argued that keeping him out of the White House violated the network and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights.