The White House on Wednesday suspended CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's press pass after he and President Donald Trump had a heated confrontation during a news conference.

A White House staff member reaches for the microphone held by CNN's Jim Acosta as he questions U.S. President Donald Trump during a news conference following Tuesday's midterm U.S. congressional elections at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2018
A White House staff member reaches for the microphone held by CNN's Jim Acosta as he questions U.S. President Donald Trump during a news conference following Tuesday's midterm U.S. congressional elections at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2018 (Reuters)

The White House on Wednesday suspended the press pass of a CNN's White House correspondent Jim Acosta who earlier sparred with Donald Trump at a news conference, in which the US president branded the journalist an "enemy of the people."

Reporters pushed Trump on whether his campaign rhetoric on migrants from Central America was divisive - and on developments in a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Trump aggressively pushed back.

“CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them,” Trump told Acosta, who politely fended off a White House staffer who was forcefully trying to pull the microphone from his hands.

“You are a rude, terrible person,” Trump told Acosta.

In a statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, "the White House is suspending the hard pass of the reporter involved until further notice."

"President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration," Sanders said in her statement.

Acosta shot back at the accusation of misconduct, tweeting "this is a lie" as his network and a number of Washington journalists who had been at the press conference voiced support for him.

"Secretary Sanders lied," CNN said in a statement, saying the press pass suspension was "done in retaliation for challenging questions."

Sanders "provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened," the US cable network said.

"This President's ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far. 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," CNN added. 

"A free press is vital to democracy, and we stand behind Jim Acosta and his fellow journalists everywhere," the statement said.

CNN's Jim Acosta (L) hugs colleague Peter Alexander of NBC after a tense exchange between Acosta and U.S. President Donald Trump during a news conference following Tuesday's midterm US congressional elections at the White House in Washington, US, November 7, 2018.
CNN's Jim Acosta (L) hugs colleague Peter Alexander of NBC after a tense exchange between Acosta and U.S. President Donald Trump during a news conference following Tuesday's midterm US congressional elections at the White House in Washington, US, November 7, 2018. (Reuters)

'Ongoing attacks'

An association representing the Washington press corps urged the White House to "immediately reverse this weak and misguided action."

"The White House Correspondents' Association strongly objects to the Trump Administration's decision to use US Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship," the group said.

"Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offence and is unacceptable."

It was the latest in a long history of fiery run-ins between the mercurial Republican leader and Acosta.

At the conference Trump, when asked if he had "demonized immigrants" during the midterms campaign, replied: "No, I want them to come into the country. But they have to come in legally."

Acosta persisted, saying: "They are hundreds of miles away. That is not an invasion."

At that point, the president snapped.

"Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN, and if you did it well, your ratings would be higher," Trump said.

U.S. President Donald Trump stops CNN's Jim Acosta while taking questions during a news conference following Tuesday's midterm congressional elections at the White House in Washington, US, November 7, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump stops CNN's Jim Acosta while taking questions during a news conference following Tuesday's midterm congressional elections at the White House in Washington, US, November 7, 2018. (Reuters)

"That's enough, put down the mic"

As the reporter continued, Trump declared: "That's enough, put down the mic" and walked away from his own podium, as if leaving.

The intern attempted to grab the microphone from Acosta, who nevertheless tried to shout out one last question.

Waving his finger, Trump berated him.

"I'll tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn't be working for CNN," he said.

When NBC reporter Peter Alexander took the mic for the next question, he defended Acosta as a "diligent reporter" earning Trump's ire.

"I'm not a fan of yours either. To be honest. You aren't the best," he said.

Looking back at Acosta, who again rose up in his own defence, Trump added: "When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people."

In response, CNN said "this president's ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far," in a statement.

"They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American."

Source: AFP