April Ryan finds herself in the Trump spotlight
April Ryan says the press is under attack from the Trump administration and she’s doing all she can to defend it.
The veteran White House correspondent made headlines this week after she squabbled with White House press secretary Sean Spicer during the daily briefing.
It’s the second time Ryan has made big news from the White House in recent months. In February, she was in the spotlight when Trump asked if she could set up a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus.
Ryan, the bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Networks and the author of two books, has done a series of cable news interviews this week to discuss her interactions with Spicer — who gave her the first question at Wednesday’s briefing a day after their public tiff.
She says she doesn’t like being at the center of the news but plans to hold her ground.
“I’m not the news. I don’t like being in the news,” she said in a telephone interview with The Hill. “But it’s about freedom of the press. We need to stay vigilant.”
Ryan is something of an institution at the White House, a beat she’s covered for 20 years, since President Clinton’s second term.
The journalist, who would not divulge her age — “I’m somewhere in my 40’s,” she said — works out of a small booth in the White House basement press file for Pittsburgh-based AURN, the only African-American broadcast with a bureau in the White House.
The company, which specializes in programming geared toward African-American audiences, reaches an estimated 25 million listeners a week.
Spicer isn’t the first press secretary to run into Ryan.
In 2009, she clashed with President Obama’s first press secretary, Robert Gibbs, after two people crashed a state dinner.
After Gibbs told her to “calm down and take a deep breath,” Ryan retorted: “Don’t play with me.”
“I may have struck a nerve in each session but that means I’m doing my job,” Ryan said when asked about the incident.
Ryan is one of the few African-American journalists in the White House Press Corps — something brought to the forefront when Trump asked if she could set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Are they friends of yours?” he inquired, creating an instant topic of conversation on cable news networks.
On Tuesday, things got heated between Ryan and Spicer after she asked about a perception problem plaguing the White House.
Spicer accused her of having “an agenda” and then said, “It seems like you’re hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays.”
When she disagreed, he added, “I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head.”
Hillary Clinton pounced on the issue in a Tuesday night speech, ensuring it won even more attention.
“April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room, and she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee said during a speech at a conference for the Professional Business Women of California.
Anita Kumar, a White House correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, who sits beside Ryan in the briefing room, said Ryan is “known for being refreshingly blunt.”
“She has never had a problem saying what she thinks and asking the questions she wants of the president or his staff no matter who is in the White House,” Kumar said.
Ryan, a mother of a 14-year-old and a 9-year-old who hails from the Baltimore area, says she doesn’t take battles personally.
“He was standing up for his boss. I know he wanted to push back on this narrative and I’m the one he pushed back on.”
She said she thought the response from Spicer was over the top, but she didn’t expect the media frenzy either.
In the hours following the encounter, she appeared on MSNBC and CNN and her Twitter following exploded. When she heard Clinton had weighed in, she was completely shocked.
Ryan says she’s received support from strangers on email and even from a police officer on the street who called her “a hero.”
Since the push-pull with Spicer, the two have tried to make amends — something signaled when the press secretary offered her the first question on Wednesday.
“That wasn’t a normal day, but we moved past it,” she said.