CNN and Breitbart squared off on Wednesday, and things quickly got awkward.
CNN’s senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta sparred with Breitbart reporter Charlie Spiering during a Newseum panel discussion. Acosta said the conservative outlet constantly defends false statements made by President Donald Trump, especially his claims that Barack Obama wiretapped him.
Acosta said he sympathizes with press secretary Sean Spicer, who’s tasked with the difficult job of defending and explaining the things Trump does to the public.
“Intelligence tells us at this point that there wasn’t even any unlawful surveillance going on and that Susan Rice didn’t do anything wrong,” Acosta said. “The level of exhaustion that [Spicer] must be feeling right now having to deal with this president.”
Spiering then pivoted to attacking CNN. He argued that what most upsets Breitbart’s audience are news organizations that are willing to “exonerate” Susan Rice while using a “hostile tone” when talking about the president.
“When it comes to people like Susan Rice, they are not taking the same tone of hostility,” Spiering said. “And a lot of the news they publish on that, I think a lot of our readers see that as coming from one side. I think there is a difference in tone coming from the mainstream media vs. Breitbart.”
Acosta was quick to defend himself, saying he didn’t let Rice off the hook as Spiering suggested. Acosta then asked the Breitbart reporter why he was quick to defend Trump’s wiretap claims.
“My question is, why can’t the folks on the conservative side of the news media just see the facts as they are?” Acosta asked. “I mean, don’t you agree, Charlie, that those tweets on their face are just wrong? The president was not wiretapped at Trump Tower by Barack Obama.”
Spiering insisted that there was an “element of truth” to Trump’s tweets.
“We’re not talking about an element of truth,” Acosta said. “How about just the truth. Why can’t we just have the truth? That’s my question.”
Acosta said that, regardless of political beliefs, the media should be able to get along without “demonizing each other.”
“Well I think the sort of ‘go along, get along, everyone gets along’ climate in Washington, D.C., is what a lot of Americans are tired of,” Spiering responded.