April D. Ryan thanked me for interviewing her?
“I am thrilled to be on the phone with you. I am so happy that you think enough of me to interview me,” said the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and recently minted CNN contributor.
The National Association of Black Journalists’ “Journalist of the Year” hasn’t let “New Renown” go to her head. I borrowed that phrase from a New York Times headline: “New Renown for Reporter After Clashes at White House.” In April the NYT wrote about Ryan because she became famous beyond the Beltway after former White House press secretary Sean Spicer chided her for supposedly shaking her head during one of his many bad days on the job.
Ryan, the author of “The Presidency in Black and White” and “At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White,” spoke Monday at an MPR News broadcast journalist series. Before the MPR engagement she talked by phone to me. And before that, she made the pilgrimage to First Avenue because Ryan noted that she was a Prince fan pre-“Purple Rain.” This is Part 1 of my interview with Ryan.
Q: Would you have invited Sean Spicer to the Emmys?
A: Sean can do whatever he wants to do.
Q: You’re in Minnesota today so you didn’t get to ask a question about President Donald Trump making it sound like the flag is more deserving of respect than humans. What question would you have asked?
A: Everyone is focused in on the racial thing. They’ve got that covered and it’s real. In my opinion as a reporter who covers all issues presidential [including protests at the White House], that’s part of the framework that the forefathers set up, you know. You challenge the system to make change. Taking the knee looks to me like challenging the system, in a different way. But the response of the White House and from this president is very different. Maybe sometime this week when I get back I could ask the White House, “Will there be an apology to the mothers the president said sons-of-bitches to?”
Q: Asked, by Jimmy Kimmel, if Anthony Scaramucci had apologized, Sean Spicer said, “No.” So did Spicer apologize to you?
A: I have not received an apology from Sean Spicer and it would be welcomed if and when he does.
Q: Was this the first time you’ve been chided for head-shaking (and I didn’t see any).
A: I dropped my head. It’s do as I say and they are in charge. But now that he is no longer press secretary and he’s asking for a job from the same people he calls fake [laugh], he’s not getting one. Right now he’s not. Sometimes, some of those people behind that podium have a false sense of majesty, false sense of power. You know he went too far. It’s give-and-take in that room and I’m going to be there. I take it with a grain of salt because I understand what they are doing. They’re after me. They are looking for me to be what they think I am. I know what my job is and I know what I did. I did nothing wrong. I walk in there every day reporting and doing what I am supposed to do.
Q: You think they are after you more than other reporters?
A: Yes. [Pause] Yes.
Q: It is because of the melanin (not to mention the misogyny)?
A: I DON’T KNOW; I believe it’s multifaceted. One, they see me by myself. I’m not from a major network. I’m from a black network. They think they can scare me. I’m not easily swayed or scared. I hold my own by myself. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I am asking questions to find out [information] to help people. And I’m asking all of it and they may not like the fact that I do that, but hey, it is what it is.
Q: Odds that Trump finishes his term? (And I’m going to tell you I think it’s 100 percent, although he seems bored with the work of president.)
A: I’m not a betting person. I can tell you this: I knew he would be president because we’ve seen this before. They played on the hate. People are disenchanted. People are hurting in all sectors. Will he finish? God only knows, but if [special prosecutor Robert] Mueller comes out within the next year with anything, there will be some challenging times.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.