Jim Acosta, the chief White House corespondent for CNN, attacked Sean Hannity Wednesday night after the Fox News host voiced his support for an angry mob that heckled members of the media covering President Trump's rally in Florida earlier this week.
"Hannity is a propagandist for profit, peddling lies every night," Acosta wrote on Twitter. "He says he's just a talk show host, not a journalist. But he's injecting poison into the nation's political bloodstream warping public attitudes about the press."
Acosta was responding to a monologue Hannity delivered to open his show Wednesday night, where he referred to the White House correspondent as a "professional Trump-hater over at 'fake news' CNN." Hannity did call out anyone who would act violently towards reporters as "no friend of mine," but later in the show he turned to former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who suggested Acosta deserved the angry reaction.
"If Jim Acosta has a problem with some of the ability of people to express themselves he should look at his own unprofessional and disrespectful behavior," Spicer said. "Look in the mirror and wonder whether he's part of the problem."
A short time later, Hannity responded to Acosta's attack in his own tweet, telling the CNN reporter that "people see through your lying bulls– for what it is."
Acosta, who was among the many reporters in Tampa, Fla. covering the Tuesday rally, shared several videos prior to the president's speech that showed angry attendees hurling insults and making obscene gestures towards reporters. In one, Acosta is seen taking a photo with a father and his young daughter as Trump supporters scream, "CNN sucks!"
Trump himself shared one of Acosta's videos of Trump supporters at the rally to his 53 million Twitter followers, retweeing his son Eric, who added the hashtag #truth.
"Honestly, it felt like we weren't in America anymore," Acosta told HLN host S.E. Cupp on Wednesday. "He is whipping these crowds up into a frenzy to the point where they really want to come after us."
"My sense of it is that these opinions these folks have at these rallies, they're shaped by what they see in the primetime hours of Fox News and what they hear from some conservative news outlets that just sort of give them this daily diet of what they consider to be terrible things we do over here at CNN," Acosta continued. "It's very unfortunate. But it's a pitting of American against American and honestly, it needs to stop."
Hannity, an outspoken Trump supporter who regularly acts as an adviser to the president and bashes media outlets critical of the current administration, celebrated the crowd's reaction to Acosta and his colleagues.
"The people of this country, they're screaming at you for a reason," Hannity said Tuesday night on his Fox News show. "They don't like your unfair, abusively biased treatment of the president of the United States."
Hannity's support was echoed on Wednesday by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who refused to condemn the angry crowd's tone or the president's repeated attacks against CNN, which he regularly labels "fake news."
"When it comes to the media, the President does think that the media holds a responsibility," Sanders told reporters. "We fully support a free press, but there also comes a high level of responsibility with that."
Acosta and other members of the national media will be in Wilkes-Barre Thursday night to cover Trump's rally for Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican Senate candidate and ally of the president. Barletta is taking on incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in November.
Trump has a long history of singling out CNN, at one point referring to the network as "the enemy of the American people." Last week, the White House barred CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from attending an event in the Rose Garden after she asked the president — in her role as a pool reporter representing many networks, including Fox News — about his former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen. The move to bar Collins was ordered by Sanders and Bill Shine, Hannity's former producer and an ex-Fox News executive who was hired by the White House last month as the new deputy chief of staff for communications.
"We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press," Fox News president Jay Wallace said in a statement.
Hannity regularly uses his popular Fox News show to attempt to undermine the credibility of news outlets and promote falsehoods that paint the Trump administration in a more favorable light. As he did Wednesday night, he often refers to other networks as "the mainstream media," despite the fact Fox News is easily the most watched cable news channel. His comments are often corrected and refuted by the network's news division, which includes hosts Bret Baier and Shepard Smith.
"They don't really have rules on the opinion side. They can say whatever they want. If it's their opinion," Smith told Time magazine in March. "I get it, that some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining… I don't work there. I wouldn't work there."