President Donald Trump mocked CNN reporter Jim Acosta during a press conference Saturday at the G-20 in Osaka, Japan, earning laughter from the audience.
The White House correspondent stood up and questioned Trump about his diplomacy with autocratic foreign leaders at the economic summit. Acosta wondered why the president hadn’t said more about Jamal Khashoggi, whose October killing U.S. intelligence agencies believe was directed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
“And what is it with your coziness with some of these dictators and autocrats at these summits?” he asked. “With Mohammad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, when you were asked about the case of Jamal Khashoggi, you did not respond to that question in front of the Saudi Crown Prince.”
“I don’t know that anybody asked me,” Trump responded.
“Were you afraid of offending him on that subject?” Acosta continued.
“No, not at all,” Trump said. “I don’t really care about offending people. I sort of thought you’d know that.”
After the laughter in the room died down, Trump flipped the script, asking: “And, by the way, congratulations. I understand you have a book. Is it doing well?”
Acosta averred that his recently published tell-all about covering Trump was selling “really good.” When Trump responded with skepticism, Acosta offered to get him an autographed copy.
Returning the subject of his diplomacy, Trump pointed at the other journalists in the room and said: “I get along with everybody, except you people, actually. I get along with a lot of people.”
Acosta, as usual, pressed his case.
“Mr. President, on the case of Jamal Khashoggi, you have a lot of journalists in this room who object to what appears to be the Saudi government’s complicity and perhaps orchestration of the assassination and dismembering of a journalist. And do you agree that it is despicable for a government to kill a journalist in that fashion?”
“Yes, I do,” Trump said. “I think it’s horrible. Or anybody else, by the way. But I think it’s horrible. And, if you look, and look into Saudi Arabia and you see what’s happening, 13 people or so have been prosecuted. Others are being prosecuted. They’ve taken it very, very seriously, and they will continue to. And I’ve let everybody know I’m not – I’m very unhappy about that whole event.”
Jim Acosta would follow Trump to Japan and back
To varying degrees, commentators on both the left and right have been troubled by Trump’s seeming friendliness with the world’s strong men, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, much of the sting has been taken out of that criticism since Special Counsel Robert Mueller effectively cleared the president and his team of colluding with the Kremlin in the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, the press has largely failed to publicly account for its panting coverage of the collusion allegations. Acosta, perhaps the most visible anti-Trump journalist, on June 11 released his tell-all about covering the Trump White House, titled “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America.”
The book made a brief appearance on The New York Times bestseller list, but has since fallen off. Meanwhile, the Mueller report has been atop the list for nine weeks.