CNN WH Correspondent Jim Acosta: Trump Is "Crazy Like A Fox," Controls Narrative By Saying Sensational Things


CNN White House Correspondent Jim Acosta gave his view of the president in an interview promoting his new book, "The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America," on "Reliable Sources" with Brian Stelter:

BRIAN STELTER, CNN: You do quote sources on the record and also on background anonymously, you quote an unnamed senior White House official saying, quote, "The president is insane." Was that person speaking literally or figuratively?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN: I think he was venting his frustrations, this particular official. We sat down one to talk with this particular source's area of expertise. I don't want to get too deeply into that. But he plopped down in the seat in front of me and said the president is insane. I went back later to this official, and I said, why did you say that? Really I was just frustrated with the president's lack of understanding of the Constitution, the constraints placed on the presidency. You know, guardrails that were put in place by our founding fathers. The president wanted to know how long you can keep an acting secretary on. He wanted to know, you know, what else he could do with his cabinet. It's this kind of behavior behind-the-scenes that frustrates his top officials more than people understand. This official was trying to explain all of that.

STELTER: You mentioned Kellyanne Conway, her husband continues to say the president is mentally unwell, unfit. Look at his latest tweets from today saying the president should resign and seek psychological treatment. That's astonishing coming from the husband of a top White House official. And Conway wrote back and said, "What's astonishing is the media's and the nation's utter failure to confront the fact that we have a psychologically unwell and unfit president." How do you view this as someone who covers the Trump White House every day, that these questions are even out there at all?

ACOSTA: I get asked this question from time to time. I tell folks I'm not a psychiatrist so I can assess the president's mental state, but I will tell you my sense of it is covering him for a pretty long period of time now, is he's more craziy likey like a fox. For example, I talked about in the book, Steve Bannon explains in an interview I had with him that, you know, what Trump tries to do is really control the narrative by saying sensational things that sound wild and nutty sometimes and he does this because he knows it dominates the news cycle. That makes it a priority for us in the news business to talk about him nonstop and he loves that and he capitalizes on that.

STELTER: Do you have any regrets? You said some White House aides do.

ACOSTA: I wish at times that the press had been a bit more in solidarity with one another. And standing up to this white house and saying listen, the president can't call us the enemy of the people. We won't go along with that. We missed some opportunities here and there to challenge that. One thing I'm most grateful for during this experience is how just about every news organization in Washington and here in New York stood behind us here at CNN when they took away my press pass. That was a very important First Amendment case. Had the Trump administration won that case, Brian, it would have sent shockwaves through our industry. It would have put a real chilling effect on the First Amendment in this country and people might say oh, you're just puffing yourself up. You're high on your own fumes. No the Trump administration's own lawyers went into the courtroom and said the president of the United States can throw out whoever he wants out of the White House. We couldn't have a situation like that.

So I was grateful... that almost our entire industry stood behind us. Had they not, I think could it have worked out a different way. So I think, you know, it hasn't been perfect. We're all grappling with how do we cover this president? My sense is that we have to stand for truth. We're not just here to report the news. We're here also to defend the truth. When you have a president who has made, you know, 10,000 false or misleading statements since the beginning of his administration, you know that makes us fact checkers in real-time. It puts us in a position, unlike the Republicans who controlled the government for two years, sort of makes the fourth estate, the press, the check on a presidency that sometimes goes outside the bounds of normal presidential behavior.

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