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President Donald Trump’s ongoing feud with Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, boiled over on Wednesday, with Trump verbally berating the journalist before the White House ultimately suspended his press access.
Acosta tweeted Wednesday night that he was denied access when he tried to enter the White House. He added in another tweet that he didn’t “blame” the U.S. Secret Service agent who stopped him.
“I know he’s just doing his job,” Acosta wrote.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later issued a statement that said the reporter’s “hard pass” was suspended as a result of his attempt to keep control of a microphone during Wednesday’s news conference with the president.
She said Acosta put “his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern” during the session, a claim that doesn’t appear to be supported by video of the incident.
The press secretary called Acosta’s behavior “absolutely unacceptable.”
“It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question,” Sanders stated.
I’ve just been denied entrance to the WH. Secret Service just informed me I cannot enter the WH grounds for my 8pm hit
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 8, 2018
In a statement posted on Twitter, CNN challenged Sanders’ account and argued that the suspension of Acosta’s credentials “was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today’s press conference.”
“Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied,” the cable news network said of the explanation. “This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support.”
The White House Correspondents’ Association said in a statement late Wednesday that it “strongly objects to the Trump Administration’s decision to use U.S. Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship.”
The group added, “We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”
Earlier in the day Trump called Acosta “a rude, terrible person” as he tried to ask the president a question.
The exchange came during a White House press conference on the 2018 midterm elections, in which Trump called out failed Republican candidates who didn’t “embrace” him.
Trump began taking questions and called on Acosta, who tried to ask about the president’s characterization of a migrant caravan of roughly 4,000 Central American immigrants who are walking through Mexico to claim asylum in the U.S.
Trump immediately interrupted Acosta as the journalist began to ask his question. “Here we go,” Trump said to Acosta.
Acosta then challenged Trump’s use of the word “invasion” to describe the caravan and asked the president if he thought he had demonized immigrants. Trump then said he wanted immigrants to “come in legally.”
When the president tried to go to another journalist, Acosta declined to give up the microphone and asked about possible indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller based on the ongoing investigation into Trump’s presidential campaign.
Trump told Acosta to “put down the mic” and a White House staffer tried to take the microphone from the CNN correspondent but he wouldn’t give it up.
Acosta finally relinquished the mic and sat down, but Trump then began to verbally berate him from the lectern.
“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” Trump said. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”
Trump added that the way Acosta had treated Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was “awful.”
The president then moved to address the next questioner, NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander, who defended Acosta.
“In Jim’s defense, I’ve traveled with him and watched him, he’s a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us,” Alexander said.
“Well I’m not a big fan of yours either,” Trump said.
Acosta then stood up and began speaking to the president off microphone, to which the president responded, “When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.”
Acosta later tweeted his thanks to Alexander.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 7, 2018
Later in the news conference, Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS, asked the president about labeling himself a nationalist and whether he felt that emboldened white nationalists.
“I don’t know why you’d say that,” Trump said. “That’s such a racist question.”
Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editors of PBS NewsHour, tweeted her support for Alcindor.
Alcindor later tweeted, “I’m simply asking the question the public wants to know.”
I’m simply asking the questions the public wants to know. https://t.co/bZ1cZVBKhd
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) November 7, 2018
“I followed up the president calling my question ‘racist’ with a policy question about his proposed middle-class tax cut because that’s what journalists do,” Alcindor, who is black, said in another tweet. “We press on. We focus on the privilege of asking questions for a living. We do the work.”
Trump also repeatedly told April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, to sit down, adding that “it’s such a hostile media.”
The news conference lasted almost an hour and a half, making it one of the longest of Trump’s presidency.
CNN released a statement through its public relations Twitter account addressing the exchange with Acosta.
“This President’s ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far,” the company said. “They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American. While President Trump has made it clear he does not respect a free press, he has a sworn obligation to protect it. A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere.”
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, criticized Acosta for his part in the exchange.
“We all value a free press, but it’s unfortunate that some reporters seem more interested in getting their own cable show than doing their jobs,” McDaniel said in a statement. “The media grandstanding has gone overboard.”
Trump and Acosta have sparred before, with the CNN journalist having emerged as one of the president’s favorite personal targets for his broader criticism of the media. In July, Trump declined to take a question from Acosta during a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
“CNN is fake news,” Trump said. “I don’t take questions from CNN.”
CORRECTION (Nov. 7, 2018, 3:14 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of the U.K. prime minister. She is Theresa May, not Teresa.
Jason Abbruzzese is the senior editor for technology news at NBC News Digital.
Dennis Romero is a freelance reporter based in Los Angeles.
Stacey Klein contributed.