As the White House makes a national pitch for its long-promised border wall, President Donald Trump’s media strategists are drawing partisan ammunition from an unlikely source: CNN’s Jim Acosta.
“I found some steel slats down on the border. But I don’t see anything resembling a national emergency situation,” tweeted the White House correspondent on Thursday.
Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale was the first to seize Acosta’s framing as proof that walls effectively deter immigration—given the walled off area the anchor toured was free of migrants.
“I would like to thank @Acosta for pointing out how peaceful, safe and secure it is at a part of the border that HAS a wall,” shot back Parscale.
“A sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to @Acosta and @CNN for finally showing what POTUS has been saying: barriers work!” added White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.
Underneath his memetic dig, Gidley promoted an article by the Trump friendly Washington Free Beacon titled “CNN’s Acosta Confirms Walled Part of the Border is Crisis Free.” White House comms staffer Lindsay Walters quickly retweeted her coworker’s message.
The White House’s rhetorical judo on Acosta follows an exchange between the reporter and Trump aide Kellyanne Conway. During a press conference on Tuesday, Acosta asked the president’s advisor whether Trump would tell the truth during his evening address on border security.
“Yes, Jim,” responded Conway. “Can you promise that you will? The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Am I allowed to mention ‘God’ to you?”
“Make sure that goes viral. This is why I’m one of the only people around here who gives you the time of day,” continued the Republican. “You’re such a smartass most of the time, and I know you want this to go viral.”