President Donald Trump and White House correspondent April Ryan had a bit of a heated exchange during the president's press conference Thursday afternoon.
Ryan, a veteran White House reporter for the American Urban Radio Networks, asked the president two questions regarding his agenda with inner cities. Anticipating a challenge, Trump said Ryan's question was “going to be a very bad question,” but afterwards, offered some praise saying her question was “very professional and very good.”
But Ryan's second question was another story:
AR: “Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus [in conversations about your inner city agenda]?”
POTUS: “Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?”
AR: “No, no, no, I’m just a reporter."
POTUS: “Are they friends of yours?”
AR: “I know some of them, but I’m sure they’re watching right now —”
POTUS: “I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus, I think it’s great.”
Shortly after the exchange regarding Ryan's supposed “friends,” the Congressional Black Caucus said President Trump never replied to their request for a meeting:
And on its face, Trump's quip, to many online, had a racial undertone.
But there's also some context worth noting. Last week, The Washington Post reported on an ongoing beef between Ryan and Omarosa Manigault, White House communications director for the Office of the Public Liaison.
Though once close friends, the tension stems from an email in which Manigault suggested that Ryan was offering preferential coverage of Hillary Clinton in exchange for money during the campaign season:
“Protect your legacy!!” Manigault wrote to Ryan in October. “You have worked too hard to have people question your ethics as a journalist.” She cited a story that mentioned the Clinton campaign’s efforts to woo journalists and added, “This story suggests that as a reporter, you are (or were) a paid Clinton surrogate. I pray this is not true! This could be hurtful to your legacy and the integrity of your work.”
The same report details a heated exchange between Manigault and Ryan inside the White House last week, which was reportedly recorded by a staffer and observed by several reporters:
“She came in [to the White House press-staff area] hot," hurling insults at her, Manigault said. "She came in with an attitude. For her to characterize me as the bully — I’m so glad we have this tape [...] because it’s ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ in Ryan’s case,” Manigault said.
Ryan said she was not aware that the run-in was being recorded and never consented to it. “I didn’t know she was taping it,” she said. “This is about her trying to smear my name. This is freaking Nixonian.”
Ryan added that she felt “physically intimidated“ by the exchange and said that the White House had a dossier of negative information on journalists who posed a threat — a bit like the ”list of enemies" Omarosa referred to when speaking to Independent Journal Review.
Still, Manigault's claim that there's an April Ryan dossier within the White House and other members of the media suggests that the Trump team may have come to the conclusion that she was working with (as they like to call it) “the opposition party.” Despite Ryan's 20-year standing, Trump may have been suggesting during the press conference that members of the CBC were her “friends” because they are made up entirely of Democratic members.
Whether racially-motivated or motivated by the suggestion that Ryan is in cahoots with Washington Democrats — it was a damning suggestion for the President of the United States to make against a veteran White House reporter at a press conference.