The Brighton and Sussex branch is preparing to toast its latest member - CNN correspondent and scourge of Donald Trump’s White House Jim Acosta.
There will be an empty chair in the front row of the next Brighton and Sussex branch meeting - and the members are delighted. That seat is now reserved for CNN’s Jim Acosta, the journalist who was stripped of his White House press pass by Donald Trump and then succeeded in having the decision overturned in court.
Branch secretary Brian Williams explains:
"Like journalists everywhere, we were appalled by the dispute between Trump and a highly respected member of the White House press corps.
"What sort of president thinks it’s okay to call a correspondent a 'rude, terrible person' simply because he’s been asked a difficult question?
"Then Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, shared a video that appears to have been doctored in an attempt to show Jim reacting aggressively to the intern who tried to take the microphone from him during the press conference. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, Jim’s press pass was revoked - a decision that was later overturned by a judge.
"It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and think: well, what else do you expect from Trump? But this was far more serious than that - it was part of the US president’s determined and deliberate attack on a free press.
"In Brighton and Sussex we wanted to demonstrate our support for a fellow journalist who found himself at the centre of an issue that affects us all - not least because Jim conducted himself with such dignity, courtesy and professionalism throughout. So we invited him to join our branch as an honorary member.
"As you can imagine, we were thrilled when he accepted and tweeted that we had just recruited a distinguished new member. It went gangbusters! According to Twitter, 100,000 people have seen that tweet. If they all turn up at our next meeting we’re going to need a bigger room.
"On a more sinister note, a few 'fake news' trolls used it as a chance to abuse Jim, which is of course outrageous but sadly an all-too-common problem for journalists no matter where they work. That’s why we all have to stand up for journalism at every available opportunity.
"We do recognise that Jim may have problems getting to every branch meeting - it’s a fair old step from Washington DC to Brighton. But we will reserve a seat for him - which, he tells us, he’s looking forward to taking when he can.
"We see Jim as a role model for every one of our branch members, so we’ll be raising a glass to him at future meetings and at our Christmas party - which is on Tuesday 11 December if you’re free that evening.
"We haven’t decided on the toast yet, but at branch meetings we do our best to keep matters short and to the point. In line with that policy, I’ll be voting for: Jim Acosta - the journalist’s journalist. We salute you."
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