The White House has suspended the press pass of a journalist it claims “placed his hands” on a female staffer, during a fiery media call with US President Donald Trump.
Mr Trump was addressing the press on Wednesday afternoon (US time), after a dramatic midterm election.
The President appeared agitated as he fielded questions from dozens of reporters on the Democrat-heavy election results and the forced resignation of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.
It was when CNN reporter Jim Acosta posed his questions that sparks began to fly.
Mr Trump has long held a prickly relationship with the news outlet, and Acosta posed a question relating to immigration policies.
The President took offence at Mr Acosta as he tried to ask a follow-up question, saying: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them.
You are a very rude person … the way you treat Sarah Huckabee is …”
Mr Trump demanded the microphone be taken away from Mr Acosta, prompting a female aide to stand up and try to wrench it from the journalist’s hand.
— The Hill (@thehill) 8 November 2018
During the exchange, Mr Acosta was still holding and speaking into the microphone when the aide attempted to wrestle it from him.
After several failed attempts, she tried again with her other hand. Mr Acosta’s left arm, which was not holding the microphone but raised, came down on her arm.
The incident was captured on video, and a war has broken out on Mr Trump’s favourite battleground: Twitter.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders took to the platform to defend the President’s belief in free press.
“President Trump believes in a free press and expects and welcomes tough questions of him and his Administration.
“We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern …” part one of a series of tweets read.
A follow-up tweet claimed Mr Acosta’s behaviour was “absolutely unacceptable”.
This conduct is absolutely unacceptable. It is also completely disrespectful to the reporter’s colleagues not to allow them an opportunity to ask a question. President Trump has given the press more access than any President in history.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) 8 November 2018
Several tweets later, she confirmed Mr Acosta’s press pass to the White House had been suspended until further notice.
Twitter commentators have been divided in their judgement, many saying Mr Acosta was and has repeatedly been out of line at press conferences.
Others defend his action as an accident, with no intent.
“You really should watch the entire interaction in slow motion. He was holding the mic w/his right hand, raised his left hand as he was speaking & it came down gently as the aide was reaching in to grab the mic. He did not assault the aide,” one tweet read.
Mr Acosta retweeted Ms Sanders’ original tweet, with the header: “This is a lie”.
On Wednesday night (US time), he joined his colleague Anderson Cooper on a CNN broadcast to talk further about the incident.
Mr Acosta told Mr Cooper he believed he handled himself professionally during the exchange. He added he believed this was “a test” from the White House.
“I do think they are trying to shut us down to some extent inside the White House press corp, and to some extent, I think they’re trying to send a message to our colleagues,” he said.