On Friday, CBS White House Correspondent Major Garrett spoke with Larry O’Connor on his radio show. During the segment, O’Connor asked Garrett about White House press room decorum, and CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s recent behavior.
Initially, Garrett noted that he doesn’t like to “critique other journalists in the way they ask and seek answers to their questions,” adding that he simply does his own work in the way he sees fit.
O’Connor then pressed him on Acosta, saying:
I certainly don’t want you to critique one of your colleagues there in the press room. I guess I ask a broader question then. Taking Jim Acosta out of it, would you agree, Major Garrett, that there is a standard of conduct, there is [an] expected behavior from a White House correspondent that I think all of you would agree upon, right?
There is – no question about it. It’s the most majestic political place in America, the White House. The only place second to that in my experience where I spent almost 15 years [is] the United States Congress. It’s a little bit more rough and tumble there. It can be rough and tumble at times in the White House. But it is a place of institutional heft and commands institutional respect – and I will say on my behalf, the previous press conference we had with President Trump in the Rose Garden, the president looked at me, I thought he called on me, I stood up, the White House aide handed me the microphone, I began to speak to the President of the United States, President Trump looked at me and said, “No, behind you. Kaitlan [Collins],” with CNN.
So I said, “Oh,” and what did I do? I handed back the microphone. Now, some of my colleagues might say, “What [did] you do that for? You had the microphone; you have a voice; you can speak.” The President of the United States said “not you.” To my way of thinking, that’s enough. The president said, I didn’t call on you, I called on somebody else. Alright then – and I didn’t get a question that press conference. Some might say, “Well, you laid down,” and “you were too deferential.” I don’t feel that way…
So I deferred, hoping he might call on me again. He didn’t. That’s how I orient myself to the institution. The person who occupies that institution is chosen by the country, and I respect the institution and the country’s choice, and I’m there to – on behalf of everyone – ask questions and, most importantly, Larry, get answers.
That’s the whole part of this transaction. If you’re not getting answers, then I think [there’s] part of the job that’s not reaching its fullest capability…
While O’Connor commended Garrett’s answer, he continued to press him on the interaction between Trump and Acosta:
I guess what I want you to answer is, if you can understand how any American watching what has transpired over the last several weeks – and certainly the last press conference – if we agree that there is an acceptable code of conduct for a White House correspondent, can you understand how an average American watching what transpired there would say, “Well, that’s got to breach and go beyond the appropriate code of conduct”? I think that many people watching, setting aside the First Amendment arguments for a moment, would say, “Yeah, I think the president might have a point in saying, ‘I don’t wanna deal with this guy anymore.'”
Garrett once again replied without directly insulting Acosta – but he also stressed that the role of a White House correspondent is not to be the show, but to ask questions and get answers:
They very well might, and my interpretation of that, Larry, is all of these questions are best resolved through the political channels that our country has long developed and long relied upon, and that’s why…I do my level best to not put myself or make myself part of the story, and I think the best journalists operate that way.
Because, again, I go back to that fundamental point. Why are you standing up to ask a question in the first place? To get an answer. Why’s that answer important? Because it tells the country something it didn’t already know. That’s the whole point of this interaction with the American presidency. To inform the public of what they have not yet learned.
Listen here (pertinent portion begins at the 4:22 mark):