CNN's Jim Acosta flagged for bias in coverage of Trump, pandemic

Acosta said Trump's use of the term "foreign virus" would strike many Americans as "smacking of xenophobia"

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Flagging reporters for crossing the line between fact and opinion
(Just the News)
Last Updated:
March 14, 2020 - 10:03am

With the Neutral Zone Infraction, Just the News tries to do its part to maintain the line between fact and opinion in American journalism by blowing the whistle each week on an egregious example of slanted coverage by reporters. Our inaugural offender: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

In remarks to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on a panel reacting to President Trump's address to the nation on the coronavirus Wednesday night, Acosta noted that  the president described the coronavirus as a "foreign virus," which Acosta said might strike listeners as "smacking of xenophobia."

Acosta said that sources had informed him that President Trump wanted to convey the idea that the virus did not originate in the U.S.

"Now why the president would go as far to describe it as a 'foreign virus,' that is something we'll also be asking questions about," Acosta said, adding that Trump advisor Stephen Miller "was a driving force in writing this speech and I think it's going to smack, it's gonna come across to a lot of Americans as smacking of xenophobia, to use that kind of term in the speech, Chris."

Acosta's comment infringes reportorial neutrality in two ways. First, Acosta attempted to predict public reaction to the president's use of the term "foreign virus" rather than waiting to report on it. In so doing, he appeared to be trying to help shape that reaction. 

Second, Acosta took a large leap in inferring from the factually correct phrase "foreign virus" a malevolent motive, namely "xenophobia," fear or hatred of foreigners, without underlying reporting to substantiate his interpretation.

Just the News received no response to multiple requests to CNN for comment.

President Trump earlier on Wednesday dismissed a question from his frequent foil when the reporter asked about the president's handling of the coronavirus health scare.

"What do you say to Americans who are concerned that you're not taking this seriously enough and that some of your statements don't match what your health experts are saying?" Acosta queried.

"That's CNN," the president responded. "Fake news."

Acosta has previously gotten into dustups with the president, including in 2018 when the White House revoked his press pass, though a judge ordered it to be temporarily reinstated.

The White House's move came after an exchange during which Acosta at one point refused to relinquish his microphone when a woman came to collect it. The president rebuked Acosta on the spot for his conduct. "CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them, you are a rude, terrible person, you shouldn't be working for CNN," the president scolded.

And in an exchange during the president's visit to India last month, Acosta told the president that CNN’s "record on delivering the truth is a lot better than yours sometimes, if you don’t mind me saying."