During a rant on Friday about CNN reporter Jim Acosta, President Donald Trump turned to another reporter, April Ryan.
“You talk about somebody that’s a loser,” Trump said of Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks who is African American. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.”
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During the gaggle in front of the White House, Trump continued to criticize reporters and went after another reporter of color.
“What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question,” he told CNN reporter Abby Phillip after she asked if Trump wants Whitaker to “rein in Mueller.”
“But I watch you a lot, you ask a lot of stupid questions,” the president continued to Phillip before turning away and refusing to answer the question.
To some media watchers and scholars who study race, the remarks revealed a bifurcated approach between how the president treats reporters who are white, and those of color.
Although Trump has used similar rebukes for Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey, observers see a more personal and demeaning approach to reporters of color. It’s a style they say was on display this week, when Trump was aggressive to a number of reporters, including Acosta — who had his access credentials revoked — but especially belittling to several black reporters, including PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
“Things have gotten contentious between the president and the press, but this is unlike anything we’ve seen since the days that African Americans were first allowed into the White House to report,” said Marcia Chatelain, an African-American studies professor at Georgetown University. The first African-American woman to serve as a White House correspondent was in 1947.
“Although we have a 70-year history of African-American reporters being brought into the White House, it seems that this president wants to extend beyond those years in the days that they were banned,” she added.
The insults also caused backlash from a number of reporters and experts in media, especially as the president warned that he may pull access credentials for more reporters.
The National Association of Black Journalists on Friday called Trump’s comments towards Ryan, Philip and Alcindor “appalling, irresponsible and should be denounced.”
“The most powerful man in the free world is verbally abusing journalists,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said. “The past two years have been filled with assaults on the media and Donald Trump’s comments this week have reached an all-time low with attacks on three black female journalists.”
Alcindor in a tweet came to Phillip’s and Ryan’s defense, calling Phillip “a smart, professional, and hardworking journalist. Not only was her question to Pres Trump not stupid, it was asked in public service because it’s what people want to know.”
In a separate tweet, Alcindor said Ryan is “not a loser” and has “been winning in her personal and professional lives for a while.”
Although Trump has called multiple reporters “fake news” and criticized their coverage of his administration, Chatelain said Trump’s behavior demonstrates his contempt toward people of color and women.
During an extended press conference on Wednesday, the president repeatedly interrupted reporters who had accents, saying that he did not understand them. In addition, Trump fired back at Alcindor after she asked whether he worries his rhetoric is emboldening white nationalists.
“That is such a racist question,” Trump fired back, adding that the question “is so insulting to me. It’s a very terrible thing you said.”
The president didn’t just single out people of color, though. During the same press conference, Trump criticized Peter Alexander, a White House correspondent for NBC News, saying he was “fake news” and that he was not a fan of his.
But media watchers have noted that Trump has not criticized Fox News White House correspondent Kevin Corke, who is black.
The president on Friday continued to question the press and their access at the White House.
While speaking with reporters on Friday, Trump said he does not know whether Acosta’s press access will be reinstated and said other reporters could have their security badges revoked too.
“As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that decision,” Trump said of restoring Acosta’s press pass. “But there could be others also.”
The White House yanked Acosta’s “hard pass,” a security badge that allows reporters to freely enter and exit the White House complex, following a contentious exchange with Trump during the Wednesday press conference.
“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me, this is a very special place, you have to treat the White House with respect, you have to treat the presidency with respect,” Trump said Friday, adding that he thinks “it’s a disgrace” the way Acosta has interacted with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump did not say which other reporters were at risk of losing their White House badges, a step that was virtually unheard of before Wednesday and drew an outcry from White House correspondents.
Trump on Friday also defended video Sanders posted on Twitter of Acosta during the Wednesday press briefing. Sanders said Acosta’s press access was being revoked because of an interaction with a White House aide who tried to take his microphone when the reporter talked over the president. Sanders said Acosta inappropriately touched the aide. But CNN and others said the video she used to prove her point appeared to have been edited in a way that made Acosta seem more aggressive.
“No one manipulated it. Give me a break, see that’s just dishonest reporting,” Trump said. “All that is is a close-up. They made it close up, they showed it close up.”
Trump seemed to indicate, however, that the security badge was not pulled solely over that incident, which he said “wasn’t overly, you know, horrible.”
“I think Jim Acosta’s a very unprofessional man,” the president said. “Look, I don’t think he’s a smart person, but he’s got a loud voice.”
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