CNN's Acosta repeatedly deflects Biden criticism in testy interview with GOP congressman Issa

Media top headlines August 23

In media news today, a CBS reporter instructs the White House staff to show Biden the poll about his job approval falling, Bill Maher and Andrew Sullivan pan newsrooms for caving to the ‘woke mobs,’ and a CNN panel blasts Biden’s ‘bizarre’ messaging on Afghanistan

CNN anchor Jim Acosta’s rank partisanship was evident yet again Sunday as he battled a GOP guest over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and bemoaned “disgusting” years-old remarks by a conservative radio host running for governor in California.

Welcoming Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on his “Newsroom” weekend program, the left-wing anchor framed his questioning around the Trump administration no longer in power, shortly after President Joe Biden took questions on efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies amid a bungled troop exodus.

“What is your response to what President Biden just said a few minutes ago and doesn’t former President Trump shoulder some of the blame in all of this? He cut this deal with the Taliban. Of course, Biden embraced it, and you and other Republicans up on Capitol Hill were applauding this pullout of Afghanistan months ago … What do you say now?” Acosta asked.

“Well, first of all, I would have left Bagram Air Base open. I never applauded the idea of closing a strategic base any more than I would say that we should abandon the two air bases we have in South Korea,” Issa said. “The fact is China is a greater threat today than it ever has been. And just as we keep those two bases and 28,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines in South Korea, 2,500 was not an unreasonable amount to keep.”

Issa objected to the notion that the pullout was effectively Trump’s policy, but Acosta interrupted to say the Taliban was still just as thuggish when Trump held office and cut a peace agreement with the radical group.

“It’s not like the Taliban suddenly became the Girl Scouts,” Acosta said. “Wasn’t President Biden essentially dealing with the same people that Donald Trump was dealing with when he was president?”

“You don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to say you’re reversing every mistake of Trump and picking this as the one you blame on Trump because you say you didn’t reverse it,” Issa said.

Acosta repeatedly cited the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban as he argued with Issa and also criticized its stances on legal immigration.

But Issa said again that the Biden administration, and Acosta by extension, couldn’t continue to complain about the prior one if it agreed with the overall policy of withdrawing troops.

“This has been a failure to plan or a plan to fail,” Issa said. “Either way, it is a decision made by this administration, and you can’t blame the last administration. If the last administration was wrong, then, darn it, go ahead and reverse it. But if you’re going to say the last administration was right, you could at least execute it properly. They clearly were not planning to take the people out that they’re now taking out. They hadn’t identified names.”

Acosta then shifted gears dramatically to the recall election to potentially replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in Issa’s home state of California. Acosta played a 2017 clip of GOP candidate and conservative radio host Larry Elder crassly joking Trump had “gotten more obese women off the couch” with their marches against him than Michelle Obama had in eight years.

“Do you think Larry Elder should be the next governor of California?” Acosta asked.

“I think Larry Elder, with tens of thousands of hours on the air, entertaining and thought-provoking, if that’s the —,” Issa started, before Acosta interrupted to say, “That’s not entertaining. That’s disgusting.”

Issa responded it was widely viewed as a quip and “if that’s the best you have, you don’t really have anything on Larry Elder.”

Acosta said there was plenty more material on Elder but it sounded as though Issa would prefer him to be governor over Newsom. Issa responded that the majority of the dozens of Republicans running in the recall race would do a better job than the current governor. Elder has come under fire from some of his fellow GOP challengers for his past rhetoric about women and others.

“The voters will make a decision on it,” Issa said. “I support the fact that Larry Elder has been a thoughtful spokesperson, but he’s also been a commentator. He said a lot of things. But if in tens of thousands of hours, you find a few lines, that’s not going to get people to forget that he is a thoughtful conservative who has a lot of great ideas.”

Acosta’s team thought enough of the clip that it posted it on its website, although CNN framed Issa as having called his specific remarks about women “entertaining,” when he used the word more broadly about the host in general.

Reaction to the interview predictably broke down along partisan lines. Notably, Acosta retweeted a recap of the exchange from left-wing website RawStory.

Conservative media watchdog NewsBusters called Acosta a “hack journalist” who got worked by Issa, with writer Kristine Marsh quipping, “There’s a reason why you don’t see conservatives on CNN very often.”

Acosta, whose partisan reporting style on Trump won plaudits at CNN but drew criticism from even some mainstream colleagues, has focused more on Trump than Biden overall since his show debuted, despite Biden being president for seven months. 

He was removed from the White House beat once Biden took office to become the chief “domestic correspondent.”

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