A White House aide tried to grab the microphone from Acosta, but the CNN reporter refused to give it up, infuriating the president.
“I’ll tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them,” Trump scolded Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander, the next reporter chosen to ask a question, defended his beleaguered colleague.
“In Jim’s defense, I’ve traveled with him, he’s a hard-working, diligent reporter,” Alexander told the president.
Trump later accused CNN of “voter suppression,” citing its election polling ahead of the midterm elections. It’s unclear how he believes the network’s projections led to voter suppression.
The president has repeatedly accused CNN and other media outlets of producing “fake news” and has attacked them as “the enemy of the people,” even days after a pipe bomb was sent to the outlet’s office.
“It’s such a hostile media,” Trump said at the press conference. “So sad.”
Trump also went after PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor when she started to ask whether his decision to call himself “a nationalist” may have emboldened white nationalists.
“I don’t know why you’d say that, such a racist question,” Trump said to Alcindor, who is black. “I don’t believe that, I don’t believe it. To say that, what you said, is so insulting to me.”
CNN released a statement slamming Trump’s “dangerous” rhetoric minutes after the tense press conference came to a close.
“This President’s ongoing attacks on the press have gone too far,” the statement read. “They are not only dangerous, they are disturbingly un-American.”
The statement continued: “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.”
This has been updated to include CNN’s statement.