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As President Donald Trump points to CNN's Jim Acosta, a White House aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As President Donald Trump points to CNN's Jim Acosta, a White House aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


President Donald Trump watches as a White House aide reaches to take away a microphone from CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


As President Donald Trump watches, a White House aide takes the microphone from CNN's Jim Acosta, during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


White House bans CNN reporter after confrontation with Trump

By DAVID BAUDER

AP Media Writer

Thursday, November 8

NEW YORK (AP) — The White House has suspended the press pass of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta after he and President Donald Trump had a heated confrontation during a news conference.

They began sparring Wednesday after Acosta asked Trump about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern U.S. border. When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Trump said, “That’s enough!” and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern,” calling it “absolutely unacceptable.”

The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.

Acosta tweeted that Sanders’ statement that he put his hands on the aide was “a lie.”

CNN said in a statement that the White House revoked Acosta’s press pass out of “retaliation for his challenging questions” Wednesday, and the network accused Sanders of lying about Acosta’s actions.

“(Sanders) provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better,” CNN said. “Jim Acosta has our full support.”

Journalists assigned to cover the White House apply for passes that allow them daily access to press areas in the West Wing. White House staffers decide whether journalists are eligible, though the Secret Service determines whether their applications are approved.

The post-midterm election news conference marked a new low in the president’s relationship with journalists.

“It’s such a hostile media,” Trump said after ordering reporter April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks to sit down when she tried to ask him a question.

The president complained that the media did not cover the humming economy and was responsible for much of the country’s divided politics. He said, “I can do something fantastic, and they make it look not good.”

His exchanges with CNN’s Acosta and NBC News’ Peter Alexander turned bitterly personal, unusual even for a forum where the nature of their jobs often put presidents and the press at odds.

“I came in here as a nice person wanting to answer questions, and I had people jumping out of their seats screaming questions at me,” said Trump, who talked for nearly 90 minutes despite the run-ins with reporters.

Acosta asked Trump why the caravan of migrants was emphasized as an issue in the just-concluded midterm races, and he questioned Trump’s reference to the caravan as an invasion.

“You should let me run the country,” Trump said. “You run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”

After Acosta asked about the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, Trump tried to turn to Alexander, but Acosta continued to ask questions.

“CNN should be ashamed of itself having you work for them,” the president said to Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. The way you treat Sarah Sanders is horrible. The way you treat other people is horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

Alexander came to his colleague’s defense. “I’ve traveled with him and watched him,” Alexander said. “He’s a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.”

“I’m not a big fan of yours, either,” Trump replied.

“I understand,” Alexander said, attempting to ask a question. Acosta stood back up and noted the explosive devices that were recently sent to CNN and some of the president’s political opponents.

“Just sit down,” Trump said. “When you report fake news, which CNN does a lot, you are the enemy of the people.”

CNN said Trump’s attacks on the press have gone too far.

“They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American,” CNN tweeted after the exchange. “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.”

In announcing Acosta’s suspension, Sanders said, “The fact that CNN is proud of the way their employee behaved is not only disgusting, it is an example of their outrageous disregard for everyone, including young women, who work in this administration.”

The White House Correspondents’ Association released a statement Wednesday saying 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. Revoking access to the White House complex is a reaction out of line to the purported offense and is unacceptable.”

The WHCA called on the White House to “immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”

During the news conference, Trump also turned on reporter Yamiche Alcindor of PBS’ “NewsHour.” She said that “on the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists.” Trump interrupted her, calling it a racist question.

Alcindor pressed on: “There are some people who say the Republican Party is seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric. What do you say to that?”

“What you said is so insulting to me,” he said. “It’s a very terrible thing you said to me.”

Alcindor moved on to a different topic. Later, via Twitter, she said that she has interviewed white nationalists who say they are more excited by Trump than they have been about other presidents. “Even if President Trump doesn’t intend it, some see him as directly appealing to the racists,” she wrote.

Trump told Ryan, of American Urban Radio Networks, repeatedly to sit down when she attempted to ask Trump about accusations of voter suppression. He said she was rude for interrupting another reporter, though he did briefly answer one of Ryan’s questions.

This story has been corrected to show the NBC News correspondent is named Peter Alexander, not Peter Garrett.

The Conversation

Blasphemy law is repealed in Ireland, enforced in Pakistan – and a problem in many Christian and Muslim countries

November 8, 2018

Author

Steve Pinkerton

Lecturer in English, Case Western Reserve University

Disclosure statement

Steve Pinkerton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

Case Western Reserve University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

The citizens of Ireland voted recently, in a nationwide referendum, to remove a clause from their constitution that had made blasphemy a criminal offense.

Ireland’s now-defunct Defamation Act of 2009 prohibited the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.” Just last year, in fact, Irish police opened a brief investigation into whether comedian Stephen Fry had broken the law when he described God as “capricious, mean-minded, stupid” and “an utter maniac” during a televised interview. The case was closed, however, as the police said they had been “unable to find a substantial number of outraged people.”

The overturning of Ireland’s blasphemy law stands in stark contrast to recent news out of Pakistan – where the release from prison of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, accused of blasphemy, has led to widespread protests. In Indonesia, too, many people have been jailed for speaking irreverently against Islam.

Despite its recent defeat, Ireland’s 2009 blasphemy law is an important reminder that laws against blasphemy have hardly been unique to the Muslim world – even in the 21st century.

Understanding the Muslim world

As of 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly one-fifth of European countries and a third of countries in the Americas, notably Canada, have laws against blasphemy.

In my research for a literary study of blasphemy, I found that these laws may differ in many respects from their more well-known counterparts in Muslim nations, but they also share some common features with them.

In particular, they’re all united in regarding blasphemy as a form of “injury” – even as they disagree about what, exactly, blasphemy injures.

In the Muslim world, such injured parties are often a lot easier to find. Cultural anthropologist Saba Mahmood said that many devout Muslims perceive blasphemy as an almost physical injury: an intolerable offense that hurts both God himself and the whole community of the faithful.

For Mahmood that perception was brought powerfully home in 2005, when a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Interviewing a number of Muslims at the time, Mahmood was “struck,” she wrote, “by the sense of personal loss” they conveyed. People she interviewed were very clear on this point:

“The idea that we should just get over this hurt makes me so mad.”

“I would have felt less wounded if the object of ridicule were my own parents.”

The intensity of this “hurt,” “wounding” and “ridicule” helps to explain how blasphemy can remain a capital offense in a theocratic state like Pakistan. The punishment is tailored to the enormity of the perceived crime.

Blasphemy and Christians

That may sound like a foreign concept to secular ears. The reality, though, is that most Western blasphemy laws are rooted in a similar logic of religious offense.

As historians like Leonard Levy and David Nash have documented, these laws – dating, mostly, from the 1200s to the early 1800s – were designed to protect Christian beliefs and practices from the sort of “hurt” and “ridicule” that animates Islamic blasphemy laws today. But as the West became increasingly secular, religious injury gradually lost much of its power to provoke. By the mid-20th century, most Western blasphemy laws had become virtually dead letters.

That’s certainly true of the U.S., where such laws remain “on the books” in six states but haven’t been invoked since at least the early 1970s. They’re now widely held to be nullified by the First Amendment.

Yet looking beyond the American context, one will find that blasphemy laws are hardly obsolete throughout the West. Instead, they’re acquiring new uses for the 21st century.

Religious offense in a secular world

Consider the case of a Danish man who was charged with blasphemy, in February 2017, for burning a Quran and for posting a video of the act online.

In the past, Denmark’s blasphemy law had only ever been enforced to punish anti-Christian expression. (It was last used in 1946.) Today it serves to highlight an ongoing trend: In an increasingly pluralist, multicultural West, blasphemy laws find fresh purpose in policing intolerance between religious communities.

In other words, the real question for the 21st century has not been whether blasphemy counts as a crime. Instead it’s been about who, or what – God or the state, religion or pluralism – is the injured party. Instead of preventing injury to God, these laws now seek to prevent injury to the social fabric of avowedly secular states.

That’s true not only of the West’s centuries-old blasphemy laws but also of more recent ones. Ireland’s Defamation Act, for instance, targeted any person who “utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”

With its emphasis on the “outrage” blasphemy may cause among “any religion,” the measure was clearly aimed less at protecting the sacred than at preventing intolerance among diverse religious groups.

The law itself caused outrage of a different sort, however. Advocacy organizations, such as Atheist Ireland, mounted fierce opposition to the law and to the example it set internationally. In late 2009, for instance, Pakistan borrowed the exact language of the Irish law in its own proposed statement on blasphemy to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

Thus, Atheist Ireland warned on its website that “Islamic States can now point to a modern pluralist Western State passing a new blasphemy law in the 21st century.”

Blasphemy in modernity

That warning resonates with the common Western view of blasphemy as an antiquated concept, a medieval throwback with no relevance to “modern,” “developed” societies. Atheist Ireland’s chairperson, Michael Nugent, drew on this tradition when he touted the significance of the recent referendum victory:

“It means that we’ve got rid of a medieval crime from our constitution that should never have been there.”

As Columbia University professor Gauri Viswanathan puts it, blasphemy is often used “to separate cultures of modernity from those of premodernity.” Starting from the assumption that blasphemy can exist only in a backward society, critics point to blasphemy as evidence of the backwardness of entire religious cultures.

I would argue, however, that this eurocentric view is growing increasingly difficult to sustain. If anything, blasphemy has in recent years enjoyed a resurgence in many corners of the supposedly secular West – including prosecutions in Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and Turkey. Perhaps the fate of Ireland’s Defamation Act forecasts a broader reversal of that trend.

This piece incorporates elements of an earlier article published on May 1, 2017.

Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections

By Rob Okun

Since Donald Trump’s selection as president two years ago, a growing movement of citizens has been fighting back at what it sees as a dangerous march toward fascism US style. And, despite the election of some progressive candidates in the midterm elections, it would be a mistake to count on them alone to interrupt the erosion of an already tattered democracy in a largely corporate controlled society.

Still, the diverse community of activists, old and young—a veritable rainbow coalition—is already a force, both as potential allies to the newly elected progressives and as a check on them to follow through on their campaign promises.

Like many born after World War II and before the moon landing in 1969, my activism began in the 1960s, volunteering for Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign and as an anti-Vietnam war protestor. Ever since, I have been a part of a range of campaigns and causes, in recent years focusing on challenging men’s violence against women and working to transform masculinity. Today’s activists, from Black Lives Matter to 350.org, for example, count at their core women—many active well before the Women’s March—who have long been leading the way in a feminist wave revitalizing activism today.

In campaigning in the midterms, activists saw a simultaneous truth: in addition to the energy and enthusiasm many felt in working to help the Democrats take back the House of Representatives, they also recognized that electoral politics alone cannot fix a broken system. Those outraged by the white supremacist misogynist temporarily residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue felt that working to flip the house was a struggle worth engaging in.

For my part, I spent the final week of Texas senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat Ted Cruz, “block walking” the streets in a mix of neighborhoods across Dallas. Thousands were doing the same across the state, including those I walked with, from one of my daughters to a history professor from Kentucky, to a Mexican American X-ray technician. Our shared experience created a powerful bond which has only strengthened my conviction that activists double down to advance grassroots movements.

I talked—and listened—to voters, many of them exercising their franchise for the first time in years. I heard how marginalized they feel and how—for a moment, anyway—Beto’s candidacy interrupted their despair. Was it an illusion that the charismatic progressive 46-old Congress member from El Paso could transform conservative Christian Texas? Could he lift up the spirits of the disenfranchised, including Mexican-Americans and non-citizen Mexican and Central American residents, fearful of an administration relentlessly threatening them? He certainly tried. His message was inclusive; he recognized the diversity in the state’s 30 million citizens, and he spoke to voters’ better angels—standing up for families, for teachers, for communities of color, for gays, lesbians and transgender Texans. Beto became the embodiment of hope for progressives from coast to coast. If hope is a muscle, Beto showed Texas what it looked like when it was exercised.

Yes, Ted Cruz is still the state’s junior senator. But as a Texas native told me in a Dallas coffee shop the day after the election, that a Democrat came as close as Beto came to unseating Cruz is proof the state is changing. (And the results of many races statewide backed up his contention.)

On my last day of canvassing, I knocked on the door of a 75-year-old African American man with a trimmed white beard. He closely resembled the late actor and activist Ossie Davis. He appreciated my being there but told me he thought it was time for the younger generation to step up. “We’ve done our walking,” he said, noting my white hair and beard. “It’s their time now.” I nodded, but added, “It’s still our time, too. We can’t stop now.” As I headed down his front walk, he called to me. I turned to him standing in his doorway. “I’m not gonna say good luck,” he said. We’re gonna need more than luck.”

Rob Okun, rob@voicemalemagazine.org, is syndicated by PeaceVoice, edits Voice Malemagazine, and is author of VOICE MALE – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement.

The Conversation

How many women does it take to change a broken Congress?

November 9, 2018

Authors

Wendy K. Smith

Professor of Business and Leadership, University of Delaware

Terry Babcock-Lumish

Visiting Scholar in Public Policy, University of Delaware

Disclosure statement

Terry Babcock-Lumish is the founder of the leadership consultancy Islay Consulting. She is active in Democratic Party politics.

Wendy K. Smith does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

The next United States Congress will have at least 123 women in the House and Senate, including two Muslim-American women, two Native American women and two 29-year-olds.

Ten more women could still win in midterm races that remain too close to call.

Starting in 2019, women will make up nearly a quarter of the 435-member House of Representatives – a record high. Currently, there are 84 women in the House.

The female newcomers women will make waves in government – and not just because women legislators often bring greater attention to wage gaps, family leave policy, sexual harassment, child abuse and other critical issues that disproportionately affect women.

As scholars who study political leadership, we believe more women will be also good for Congress for a more fundamental reason: They may just get a broken system working again.

Women try to collaborate

Washington has been ferociously polarized since the 2016 presidential election, but Republicans and Democrats across the nation have been moving further apart ideologically since the 1990s.

There used to be overlap between the views of Democrats and Republicans, at least on some issues. Now, there is almost none.

Ninety-two percent of Republicans now sit to the right of the median Democrat, while 94 percent of Democrats sit to the left of the median Republican, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reports.

In Congress, the two parties thwart each other’s legislation and demonize their political opponents as unpatriotic or untruthful.

Americans now see the conflicts between Democrats and Republicans as more extreme than those dividing urban and rural residents or black and white people, Pew surveys show.

The 123 women elected to both houses of Congress – 103 Democrats and 20 Republicans – have the potential to work across the partisan divide.

Numerous studies on gender and problem-solving show that women are often bridge builders, collaborating to find the solutions to tricky problems.

Our research confirms these findings. In one 2017 study on leadership styles, we found that women are more likely to use inclusive “both/and” thinking, meaning they see conflict and tensions as opportunities for input rather than problems.

Men are more likely to adopt “either/or” thinking – attitudes that advance their own agendas and denigrate those of the other side.

Women build bridges

Women have played this role in Congress before.

When the federal government shut down for 16 days in 2013 over a budget impasse, for example, it was a group of five female senators – three Republicans and two Democrats – who broke the stalemate. Together, they launched a bipartisan effort and negotiated a deal to end the budget showdown.

“The women are taking over,” joked the late Arizona Sen. John McCain.

These days, it seems, McCain’s commentary is less of a joke than a political need.

Numerous studies on teamwork show that groups with women in them function better, in part because women are more likely than men to build social connections that enable conflict resolution.

In other words, female workers in organizations become friends, mentors and helpful colleagues, which builds the trust necessary for solving problems.

Women are not the only people who work like this. In large organizations, minorities tend to seek each other out and form support networks that span hierarchy, job description and even political divides.

Men can build bridges too, of course. Gender does not dictate personality or decision-making style.

McCain, for example, was known for his bipartisan legislative efforts.

But research and history show that women leaders collaborate more often – and better.

A human rights system based on consensus

Eleanor Roosevelt, an outspoken human rights advocate and wife of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, offers a classic example of such behavior.

She led the United Nations working group that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. That landmark 1948 document recognized, for the first time in history, that all people on the planet are guaranteed certain rights, regardless of religion, race or political creed.

The declaration, which was approved by 48 of the 58 countries then in the United Nations, launched the contemporary human rights movement that overcame dictatorship in Latin America, isolated apartheid-era South Africa, enshrined the rights of LGBTQ people worldwide and, today, works to protect refugees and asylum-seekers.

These lasting achievements did not come about because Roosevelt strong-armed other countries.

Instead, the American first lady famously worked to keep her UN colleagues focused on the urgency of devising and passing the declaration, despite criticism, doubt, cultural difference, ego trips and distractions.

After the agreement, Roosevelt insisted that her leadership subcommittee elect a new chair to show the world what effective democratic process looks like.

Women craft better deals

Women typically adopt more democratic leadership styles, seeking out more participation from everyone in a group. The evidence shows that solutions crafted that way are longer-lasting.

The Council on Foreign Relations has found, for example, that peace talks with women at the negotiating table were more likely to reach an agreement – and that the deals passed were more likely to endure over time.

That kind of inclusive deal-making could change the House of Representatives.

Congress often swings wildly on major policy issues as political winds change, with the new majority party shredding the partisan advances of a previous administration.

Collaborative, bipartisan legislation allows for more durable progress on issues like health care, immigration and the economy – all sure to be a focus for the next Congress.

Women in a polarized government

But Congress may not work any better with 123 women than it does with the 84 who serve there now.

Lawmakers are elected to represent their constituents’ interests. And with American society so extremely polarized, a two-party system discourages collaboration.

Many of the newly elected women in Congress additionally came to power on strong, oppositional platforms – promises to fight fiercely against the problems they see in American society.

If Congress’s newest members really want to make an impact – passing laws that aren’t undone after the next election – they will have to do more than push their own agendas. They can work together.

Given what research shows about female leadership, more women could push Washington in that direction.

As President Donald Trump points to CNN’s Jim Acosta, a White House aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121736509-86e8bbbbd5e24aefb3e35bf061fd1454.jpgAs President Donald Trump points to CNN’s Jim Acosta, a White House aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump watches as a White House aide reaches to take away a microphone from CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121736509-dfc7e8f732c9432aa19554313a477f8b.jpgPresident Donald Trump watches as a White House aide reaches to take away a microphone from CNN journalist Jim Acosta during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As President Donald Trump watches, a White House aide takes the microphone from CNN’s Jim Acosta, during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121736509-ab69963d963d4e73a24ff67efc383a13.jpgAs President Donald Trump watches, a White House aide takes the microphone from CNN’s Jim Acosta, during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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