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Capitol Hill press corps shows support for Manu Raju after GOP senator's smear

Updated 6:44 PM ET, Fri January 17, 2020

New York (CNN Business) - The Capitol Hill press corps on Friday rallied behind Manu Raju, CNN's senior congressional correspondent, after Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona insulted him on Thursday.

The Radio and Television Correspondents Association, which represents scores of journalists who cover Congress, said McSally's comment was "inappropriate anywhere, but particularly in the halls of the Congress."

When Raju asked McSally if the Senate should consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial, she called him a "liberal hack," adding, "I'm not talking to you."

Her comment was praised and amplified by Trump's reelection campaign and by right-wing media organizations. McSally doubled down on Twitter by sharing a video of the exchange and then went on Laura Ingraham's Fox News talk show Thursday night for a victory lap, telling the prime time host, "I called it like it is."

But beyond the pro-Trump orbit, McSally's conduct was widely panned, and the way she and her team handled the situation was widely seen as a fundraising initiative by a lawmaker in a competitive race. Within hours, McSally's campaign had moved to take advantage of the attention being paid by selling $35 T-shirts printed with the words "liberal hack."

In a rare statement, the executive committee of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association said it "strenuously objects to insults being directed towards any journalist."

The committee noted that Raju is a member of the association and called his question for McSally "timely and relevant question."

"A reporter's job is to ask questions," the statement said. "We ask all members of Congress to respect the role of the free press in our democracy and to respect the long tradition of reporters asking questions of our elected representatives on behalf of the American people."

The National Press Club also spoke up in support of Raju on Friday.

"Raju is a consummate professional who is respected by his journalistic peers and the people he covers, politics notwithstanding," the organization said. "Stating the contrary is factually and ethically wrong.

As the senior congressional correspondent for CNN, Raju has years of experience with walk-and-talk interviews on Capitol Hill -- but this interaction was unique.

"It is extremely unbecoming for a US senator to sink to this level and treat a member of the press this way for simply doing his job," CNN said in a statement.

Several of the network's anchors also spoke out against McSally's insult. Chris Cuomo said she "acted like a punk" because "she wants to impress" President Donald Trump. Wolf Blitzer said "it was awful" and "she should know better."

In a segment with Blitzer, Raju noted that McSally lashed out at him amid a "very difficult reelection race," and said he had not received an apology. "I have not heard from them at all," he said. McSally lost in a 2018 race for Arizona's Senate seat, but she was appointed to fill the seat vacated by the death of John McCain. She is running against Democrat Mark Kelly in 2020 to keep the seat.


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