Finally, a White House Press Conference Went Completely Off the Rails, and It Should’ve Happened Long Ago

Stephen Miller, senior adviser to the president for policy, talks to reporters about President Donald Trump’s support for creating a “merit-based immigration system” at the White House on Aug. 2, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Stephen Miller, senior adviser to the president for policy, talks to reporters about President Donald Trump’s support for creating a “merit-based immigration system” at the White House on Aug. 2, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The press does not work for the White House. While they are invited to be members of the White House press corps, their job is to challenge the White House when things sound batshit crazy. While news outlets have been ambitious in working behind the scenes to debunk many of the asinine comments coming from this administration, the press inside the White House has been soft when it comes to challenging the speakers trotted out before them. Since January, I can only think of two incidents in which the press pushed back.


One was when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to claim that the media was pushing a fake agenda to hurt the president (keep in mind, she was ballsy enough to say it to a room full of media), and one reporter, Brian Karem, stood up and said something:

The other was then-press secretary Sean Spicer’s personal attack against April Ryan, during which Spicer told Ryan, a black woman, to stop shaking her head. I’m not sure when a white man can comfortably tell any woman to stop shaking her head, but clearly this administration didn’t mind it, and even during that exchange, Ryan didn’t really hand it to Spicer as much as she could have; she merely defended herself:

My point is, with an administration that clearly seems to be making this shit up as it goes, you would think that the pressroom would be jumping with reporters pushing back. But much like the bizarro world of the Trump administration, reporters seem to ask their questions, get inadequate answers, or no answers at all, and then move on.


Not today.

On Wednesday, while Trump’s senior adviser for policy, Stephen Miller, was announcing an immigration proposal, including a skills-based system that would require all immigrants to learn English before they would be allowed into the United States, CNN’s Jim Acosta began asking a question.

What Miller didn’t know was that Acosta’s father is a Cuban immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was 11 and didn’t know how to speak English. Acosta wanted Miller to explain how this new policy wouldn’t go against the foundation embodied by the Statue of Liberty and what it represents.

Here’s how the exchange went down, according to The Week:

“The Statue of Liberty says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,’” Acosta said. “It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer.”


“Well, first of all,” Miller began, “right now, it’s a requirement that to be naturalized, you have to speak English. So the notion that speaking English wouldn’t be a part of the immigration systems would be actually very ahistorical. Secondly, I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world. … The poem that you’re referring to was added later; it’s not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

Despite Miller’s best efforts, however, the pair then immediately got into a “whole thing about history.”


“You’re saying [the poem “The New Colossus”] does not represent what the country has always thought of as immigration?” Acosta asked. “I’m sorry, that sounds like some National Park revisionism.”

And the two were just warming up. Watch the entire exchange below:

And here is the thing: I want more of this. I don’t think it’s unruly or ridiculous. Hell, I don’t even think that exchange was that bad, and I don’t understand how a roomful of journalists can sit idly by as the country is going to shit. Thankfully, one stood up today, and who knows? Maybe one will stand up tomorrow.


Read more at The Week.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter



How many countries in Africa speak English as an official language?

Let the flood gates open