Has Donald Trump intentionally kept American citizens in the dark?
That’s what veteran White House correspondent April Ryan declared as an irrefutable fact while speaking at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 48th Annual Legislative Conference on Friday, Sept. 14 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.
But she went further in her detailed critique, pointing to the paltry amount of time reserved for press pool briefings led by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee between June and August which totaled less than four hours and the absence of public outrage over the Trump Administration’s failure to share adequate information with American citizens.
“People are afraid because we’re [living] in a time of bullying. If the president doesn’t like you, he’ll go after you,” said Ryan, White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network and the author of “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House,” at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest on Friday afternoon.
Ryan, speaking at a standing room-only event, “Black Journalists: Our Experiences in the Era of Trump,” engaged Tiffany Cross of The Beat for nearly an hour in a spirited one-on-one discussion about her experiences in the Trump White House.
Later, a panel that included Washington Post Columnist and MSNBC Contributor Jonathan Capehart, Axios Political Reporter Alexi McCammond and VICE News Washington Bureau Chief Shawna Thomas, explored the nuances of their news coverage since President Trump took over the Oval Office.
“People are afraid to challenge the system,” Ryan, 51, said while alluding to what she called other pressing issues deserving of the public’s attention that have been overshadowed by the Russian collusion investigation.
“Things change when you ask questions,” she continued. “We need to understand that we have other things going on: Korea, the economy, [and] Kavanaugh – things beyond Russia that aren’t covered. I don’t see the outrage. The public must hold [Trump] accountable, whether they voted or not. When people speak in masses and volumes together, change happens.”
Earlier this year, not long after she asked Huckabee if Trump had ever considered resigning, Ryan says she began to receive death threats. In fact, verbal confrontations have increased both in number and intensity since March 2017 when former Press Secretary Sean Spicer lashed out at her in response to her query about the strategy the Trump administration planned to employ in efforts to repair its less-than-positive image.
Not long after that heated exchange, Ryan says she began to face bullying tactics from Omarosa Manigault Newman, then a high level Trump Administration official and a former friend, who told her that the president had compiled negative information about her and other reporters in a confidential dossier.
Manigault, Ryan says, even insinuated that Ryan may have accepted bribes in the form of money from Trump’s former presidential opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Still, Ryan, a White House press correspondent since the Clinton administration, says she understands at least part of the reason for the constant assault she’s faced since Trump’s victory over Clinton: her rapport with officials from both sides of the aisle.
“[Trump White House officials] may shout about me on Fox News but a high-ranking person wants me to talk to people about issues of prison reform,” Ryan replied after a member of the audience expressed confusion over Ryan’s unfettered access to the White House despite the apparent animosity that continues to exist.
“They hate and berate me for the world to see, yet they understand I have an audience,” she said. “You see people who come and go – some of whom have become valuable resources for me who understand who I am. I have better Republican sources than Democratic sources and that’s why they don’t like me.”
In response to an audience member’s question about the degree to which the mainstream media has sensationalized the president’s actions, allowing his antics to dominate the discussion instead of pushing the agenda toward more important political issues, Ryan says she has to remain true to the job she holds, reporting that which she observes or hears.
“What we call out has been normalized and Trump’s tweets are supposed to be official news,” she said. “I have to cover anything presidential: his tweets, conversations with ‘Rocket-man,’ his inability to talk to the Black Caucus – even the Stormy [Daniels] incident.”
“We got to tell y’all about that. We give you that info. Russia has been too much on the table and there are so many other things.”
WI Editor D. Kevin McNeir contributed to this article.