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CNN insiders rip Jim Acosta's antics as 'auditions' for his own show

080417 Scarry Acosta CNN pic
"Ugh, just ugh." (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Jim Acosta is suddenly one of CNN's most controversial figures even among some of his CNN colleagues, who say his public battles with the Trump administration are going too far.

One of Acosta's colleagues, an on-air conservative political commentator for CNN, said he sees an ulterior motive in Acosta's actions. He said Acosta's widely noticed clashes with the White House give the impression that he wants a new role at the network.

"He's angling to host an opinion show," he said. "These [White House] briefings are his auditions."

Another CNN employee in Washington, D.C. made it clear that Acosta's outbursts aren't as popular behind the scenes as CNN sometimes makes them out to be on the air.

"Ugh, just ugh," a producer told the Washington Examiner when asked about Acosta.

Acosta is CNN's most visible White House correspondent, and his notoriety grew Wednesday when he pressed Stephen Miller, a top White House adviser, on the administration's new Republican-backed bill that aims to sharply reduce immigration.

At the press briefing that day, Acosta suggested that the new bill, which would favor English-speaking and higher-skilled workers, was out of sync with America's spirit in welcoming immigrants.

"[T]his whole notion of, ‘Well, they have to learn English before they get to the United States,'" Acosta said to Miller. "Are we just going to bring in people from Great Britain and Australia?"

Miller replied that he was "shocked at your statement that you think that only people from Great Britain and Australia would know English" and said demonstrated a "cosmopolitan bias to a shocking degree."

The two engaged in an extended back-and-forth that included Acosta accusing the White House of "trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country" and Miller saying that was "one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant, and foolish things you've ever said."

Before the age of Trump, Acosta was fairly ho-hum in terms of his reputation as a cable news reporter. He was mostly viewed as much of CNN was: undistinguished, perhaps even forgettable.

But since Trump won the election, both CNN and now Acosta have earned extra attention and scrutiny, in large part because the president finds a certain joy in taunting the network. And because Acosta represents CNN when it comes to covering White House, he is often singled out at briefings and press conferences.

At a press conference in January, before Trump's inauguration, the then-president-elect called out CNN and Buzzfeed for publishing a report that included unsubstantiated personal claims related to Trump and Russia.

"Since you're attacking us, can you give us a question?" called out Acosta.

Trump said no but Acosta pressed on.

"Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization ..."

Trump swatted Acosta down. "Your organization is terrible. … Don't be rude. No, I'm not going to give you a question. I'm not going to give you a question. … You are fake news."

At Trump's first press conference in February, he called on Acosta to ask a question but not before first saying he was changing CNN's designation from "fake news" to "very fake news."

Since then, Acosta has grown more vocal in his editorializing against the White House, particularly when it comes to media access, which he had said was being threatened by then-press secretary Sean Spicer, who had often mandated that the daily press briefings would be held off camera.

In July, Acosta accused Trump of holding a "fake news conference" during a trip to Poland because the president had called on a Daily Mail reporter to ask a question, though that reporter, David Martosko, had reportedly been considered for a job in the administration.

But in that same commentary, Acosta overreached in describing part of one of Trump's answers to a question as "fake news," even though what the president had said was accurate.

"The other thing that was ‘fake news' coming from President Trump is when he said, well, I keep hearing it's 17 intelligence agencies that say Russia meddled in the election, I think it's only three or four," Acosta said. "Where does that number come from?"

Acosta was referring to Trump's observation about news reports that had previously said 17 U.S. intelligence agencies determined Russia had interferred in the 2016 election, only to see those reports later corrected because only four had officially made that determination.

Acosta's outspoken criticism has rubbed some of Acosta's media colleagues the wrong way.

John Podhoretz, an anti-Trump writer at the conservative Commentary magazine, called Acosta's line of questioning Wednesday at the White House about immigration "so obnoxious."

Even some within CNN take issue with his performance.

"Jim is a stunt dummy," one CNN producer said in describing Acosta.

Another producer, however, was complimentary of Acosta's work, describing him as "a good guy" and an "honest reporter."

He's "been ignored and taken a thrashing by the president and just wants to get at answers," the producer said.

CNN did not return a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.