Attack on April Ryan Was an Attack on the Black Press

Race and Politics

by: Sean Yoes Senior AFRO Contributor
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April Ryan, a Baltimore native and Morgan State University alum, has been a White House correspondent since 1997 (she is currently with American Urban Radio Networks). She has reported on every president since, and Donald Trump is the fourth. And it is the Trump White House that put Ryan in an incredibly unenviable position for most journalists, becoming the news instead of covering it.

During Trump’s meandering 77 minute White House press conference on Feb. 16, Ryan directed a question to the 45th president about his, “urban agenda,” and the now much publicized meeting between Trump and HBCU presidents

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

“That was very professional and very good,” was Trump’s condescending initial salvo to Ryan’s line of questions. Yet, as often is the case with this president, the more he talked, (especially on issues of race) the more offensive his statements became. But, the specific exchange between Trump and Ryan that really thrust the journalist into the spotlight went like this:

Ryan: “Are you going to include the CBC Mr. President in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as…”

Trump: “Am I going to include who?”

Ryan: “Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus…”

Trump: “Well, I would…do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?”

Ryan: “No, no, no, I’m just a reporter…”

Trump: “Are they friends of yours? Go ahead, set up the meeting.”

Just damn. So, much wrong to unpack there and not enough space in this column to unpack it.

“Let me say this, and I’m being very honest…it was a lot going on there from the time he called on me. But, the piece that really got me and the blood started going to my ears…when he said, `you can convene the meeting,’ or whatever he said, I said, oh my gosh, no that can’t happen and I just kept shaking my head and everything after that I was just mouthing the words, because it didn’t register,” Ryan told me during my conversation with her on First Edition on Feb. 28.

“I was just responding to him…it just didn’t register at the time. Think about it, you are standing up to a new president, very controversial president, and people are going to be watching around the world…the heat of the world was on me…it was just a lot, I was like, what in the world just happened?”

During another alleged encounter (earlier in February) at the White House, Ryan became the story again. But, this time the exchange was between her and Omarosa Manigault, former two-time, “Apprentice,” cast member and current assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. Ryan would not discuss this alleged encounter between her and Manigualt (the two were former friends) with me, because she said she did not want the story to be about her. And I understand that.

However, if Manigault did indeed suggest the White House was compiling dossiers on Ryan and several other Black journalists specifically (as has been reported by The Washington Post, among others), then the story isn’t just Ryan anymore. The story becomes an attack on the Black Press.

“I think we are like any other press group, but what makes us so different is the fact of our experiences and where we come from. We see things others may not see and I think we should be in every news room, not just on the Black stories but, all stories,” Ryan said.

“The Black Press, I’m African American, grew up in an urban setting and grew up on an HBCU campus. Because I am aware of certain things that have happened in the community or things about the community I bring that with me. I’m the totality of everything that I’ve experienced, be it here at the White House, I can tell you with institutional knowledge what has happened in the past to bring it full circle to today, I am the totality of everything,” Ryan added.

“But, when it comes to the Black Press, we have a responsibility to get the story right and to also ask every side of the story, to include our side, which is a lot of the times not heard. We just have to bring everything into perspective and make sure all voices are heard.

Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of, AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.

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