April Ryan, the African-American reporter for American Urban Radio Networks, had an agenda to pursue and nothing would stop her from hijacking the White House press conference on Wednesday, burning up almost four minutes as the rest of the press corps sat by helplessly, unable to ask questions.
More than 50 reporters packed into the White House Press Briefing Room, some standing against the walls and others crouching on the floor – journalists from the Associated Press and Reuters, American broadcast and cable news channels, the BBC, French Presse and other foreign news agencies, newspapers, radio and online sources – and they also had questions to ask and deadlines to meet.
But Ryan would not be deterred and when Press Secretary Sean Spicer recognized her for a question, she launched into a vague, rambling series of unconnected statements ranging from, “with all these investigations…” to an odd reference to President Clinton’s infamous evasive response to a grand jury question in 1996, “with questions of what is is… two and a half months in, you’ve got Russia, you’ve got wiretapping…” before Spicer mercifully stopped her.
Trump’s press secretary, who has taken a drubbing from the liberal press and been parodied on Saturday Night Live, went straight to the point.
“No, we’ve don’t have that… you’ve got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection…”
Spicer went on to address the facts about the claims that Vladimir Putin-led Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election was designed to put Donald Trump in the White House before addressing Ryan’s silent, but distracting objections.
“I appreciate your agenda here, but… at some point report the facts – the facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion. Republican, Democrat… I’m sorry that disgusts you… you’re shaking your head.”
Spicer continued, repeating, “the facts are what they are,” reiterating that so far, no one in either party, Obama-appointee or career government employee has found any evidence that Trump colluded with “the Russians.”
“At some point, April, you’re going to have to take ‘No’ for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.”
Video of the press room shows her colleagues around her checking their phones, glaring and sighing – blocked by Ryan’s filibuster from asking questions, but Ryan was undaunted, asking a question about a meeting Trump held with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who did not endorse the president.
Spicer held his temper despite Ryan’s repeated interruptions and head-shaking, presumably because she could not “tsk-tsk” the press secretary.
“It’s interesting that you ask those two questions back to back. On the one hand, you’re saying what are we doing to improve our image? And then here he is once again meeting somebody that hasn’t been a big supporter of his. … It seems like you’re hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays [interruptions]. … I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again.”
In the end, Spicer was able to stay on message, stating that President Trump will continue to fulfill the promises he made to the American people.
“To bring groups together – have been supportive, haven’t been supportive, but share a goal which is finding common ground on areas of national security, personal security, economic security, job creation, safer communities, education, health care that can unite us as a country and make the country stronger.”
By that time, time was up as the press corps was due to cover a presidential signing ceremony, and they went away without their questions addressed because April Ryan clearly felt her agenda was more important.
Ryan, the author of The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America, is well known for a perspective based solely on racial differences.