White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had a heated exchange with a CNN reporter on Thursday as she revealed the heavy toll media scrutiny has on her private life.

Jim Acosta, CNN’s White House correspondent, challenged Ms Sanders to publicly state the media was not the "enemy of the people", a refrain frequently used by President Donald Trump. 

Ms Sanders refused to do so, instead listing a litany of complaints against the press and blaming negative media coverage for inflaming tensions in the country.

The president’s spokeswoman said she was probably the first press secretary in history to require secret service protection, linking the measure to negative media coverage.

The exchange came hours after Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, said in an interview she did not agree with her father’s view of the press.

Ms Sanders has refused to break with the president’s position and was repeatedly pressed on the question by Mr Acosta during a press briefing on Thursday.

In an emotional response, Ms Sanders said she had experienced attacks on her personal appearance – referencing the remarks made by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Association dinner.

Ms Sanders’ treatment at the event was widely condemned and Margaret Talev, head of the association, issued a statement distancing the dinner’s organisers from the comedian.

The night was "meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honouring the civility, great reporting and scholarship winners, not to divide people," she said.

"Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission".

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Just last month, Ms Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia, by the owner who said she felt she had to take a stand for "honesty" and "compassion".

Mr Acosta said he did not approve of the press secretary’s treatment at the dinner, saying: “I’m sorry that happened to you. We all get put through the meat grinder in this town.”

He went on: “The president of the United States should not refer to us as the enemy of the people – his own daughter acknowledged that.”

“It would be a good thing if you would say right here the press … are not the enemy of the people. I think we deserve that.”

Mr Acosta later walked out of the briefing in protest.