This tweet has been pinned atop Jim Acosta’s Twitter account since last fall:
“We are not the enemy of the people. I am not your enemy. You are not my enemy. It is wrong to call your fellow Americans the enemy. We are all on the same team. We are all Americans.”
Acosta, who started his on-camera career as a reporter and part-time anchor in Knoxville, has been CNN’s chief White House correspondent since Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Before that, he covered the 2016 presidential election campaign and got a head start on getting under Trump’s skin. He probably holds the title of POTUS’s least favorite member of the media.
Last year the Trump administration revoked Acosta’s press pass for “failure to abide by accepted standards of decorum” after he refused to give up the microphone at a Nov. 7 press conference. A doctored video was presented as evidence against him. CNN took the Trump administration to court, and a federal judge quickly ruled in Acosta’s favor.
The Washington, D.C., native is about to become even more notorious in Trump-supporting circles when his first book, “The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America,” is released June 11.
A 1993 graduate of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., Acosta came to Knoxville for his first on-camera TV job at WBIR from 1995 to 1998. He built a reputation as a tenacious, hard-nosed reporter who really irritated certain local officials, probably none more than former sheriff Tim Hutchison (who, as coincidence would have it, headed Trump’s 2016 Knox County campaign).
Those were tension-filled years for the powerful and controversial sheriff. A former Hutchison employee who doesn’t wish to be identified remembers Acosta as a pain in the posterior who seemed to be constantly on the hunt for bad news.
This comes as no surprise to Margie Nichols, the news director who hired Acosta at Channel 10 even though he was still a bit wet behind the ears. Nichols, who retired in 2016 as the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s vice chancellor for communications and marketing, said Acosta wanted to do work that mattered.
“Jim is relentless and tenacious, which is what you want in a reporter. He really dug in, did his research and didn’t go for the easy stuff. He wanted to do good reporting, reporting that made a difference.”
Nichols said she and Acosta had some “very strong, very loud conversations, but they were good, because we were arguing about what was important – conversations about what the truth was and how to find it. If you charge your reporters to question authority, they question all authority, and that includes the people they work for. As a manager, it makes you think. Any time someone’s challenging authority, you’re going to get complaints.”
But she says the thing she’ll remember most about Acosta is how much fun it was to work with him.
“He was challenging and loved to be challenged. He can be a little headstrong and in-your-face, but we need people who are that way. We need all kinds of reporters and people who are willing to be the strong guy in the room. His heart was in the right place.”
Clearly Acosta’s publisher concurs with Nichols. Here’s a snippet from HarperCollins promoting the book:
“Jim Acosta is in the eye of the storm while reporting live to millions of people across the world. After spending hundreds of hours with the revolving door of White House personnel, Acosta paints portraits of the personalities of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner and more. Acosta is tenacious and unyielding in his public battle to preserve the First Amendment and #RealNews.”
Jim Acosta’s close encounters with Donald J. Trump: