Jim Acosta said he predicts Michael Bloomberg as the Democratic presidential nominee at a panel in Keller Theater on Thursday night.
The CNN Chief White House Correspondent was the biggest name at the politics and media panel held in the Lenfest Center for the Arts, which kickstarted Washington and Lee University’s 2020 Mock Convention.
The event ran out of tickets and students, family, professors and alumni packed the theater for the nearly two-hour event.
Axios founder and Washington and Lee alum Mike Allen mediated the panel of three other prominent journalists: Tara McGowan, founder and CEO of progressive nonprofit ACRONYM; Errin Haines, co-founder of The 19th, a new outlet that focuses on women and politics; and Bill Roberts, Al-Jazeera senior producer and Washington and Lee alum.
“Everyone in this room knows that the Mock Convention begins here,” Allen said.
Mock Convention General Chair Jimmy Fleck, ‘20, said the panel inspired students and made them excited for convention weekend.
“We need people at W&L going out into the world and driving change,” Fleck said. “Whether that is in journalism as they talked about, or more broadly, I think the future is in our hands.”
Each panelist was asked to predict the Democratic presidential nominee for the 2020 election. Haines and Roberts predicted Bernie Sanders. McGowan said she’d guess Pete Buttigieg, with Sanders close behind. Acosta was the only panelist to project Bloomberg as the nominee, who is not competing in the first four states of the election.
Acosta, who wrote the best-selling book The Enemy of the People about his experience covering the Trump administration, moved the audience to applause when he said he would trade his celebrity recognition for a better political climate.
“I want my country back,” he said. “I want to be back in the United States of America where the president doesn’t refer to the press as the enemy of the people.”
McGowan said that social media is changing the way people interact with information and campaigns.
“Perception can get baked by very little, unchecked information,” she said. “Within minutes, that becomes the narrative.”
McGowan said she saw this first-hand after being at the center of the response to the Iowa caucus. ACRONYM has financial ties to Shadow, the company that developed the app that crashed after a coding error and played a large role in the Iowa chaos.
McGowan said it didn’t matter that the app wasn’t the only reason for the incident. The narrative in mainstream news media blamed the app.
Haines said she agreed that false information spreads quickly. She said she’s written plenty of stories to combat misinformation, but finds that those don’t receive as many clicks.
Haines also said that social media plays a significant role in reinforcing polarization with race and politics in the U.S. political climate — even between family and friends.
Roberts said he thinks news media also sensationalizes politics.
“In a way, the media becomes an accomplice,” he said. “We get caught up in what cable news says is the news of the day.”
Acosta was swift to remind the audience that he doesn’t place blame only on journalists and social media platforms.
“We have to put this on the audience, the reader, the viewer, the listener,” he said. “Your butts are in this, too.”