President Trump Confronts the Black Reporter

President Trump’s exchange with a black reporter during his lengthy press conference on Feb. 16 raised questions about his conduct.

Reporter April Ryan asked Trump whether he planned to include the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in conversations about his urban agenda. Trump responded: “Do you want to set up the meeting?” and “Are they friends of yours?” A CBC letter to President Trump sent a month earlier in the hopes of working together never received a response.

ABC was the only network to air the full exchange and then follow up with the Black Caucus. It devoted nearly two minutes to this story. White reporter Mary Bruce asked Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, former Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, “You don’t think [Trump] would have asked another reporter to set up a meeting like that?” Cleaver replied, “Well, you know, I don’t think that he would have asked you to set up the meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.”

NBC’s Kristen Welker gave the story fifteen seconds. She said “there was also a discussion about race and religion in America. The president asked whether he’ll work with the Congressional Black Caucus to help him fix inner cities.” NBC then showed the clip of Trump asking Ryan whether she would set up the meeting and if they are friends of hers.

CBS’s Chip Reid devoted seventeen seconds to the story and did not show the exchange. He said “President Trump was asked by reporter April Ryan today if he was going to work with the Congressional Black Caucus on his urban agenda. The President then asked Ryan, who was African- American, if she wanted to help set up a meeting. Later today, the White House thought better of it and decided to reach out to the CBC on its own.”

Was this a story that deserved significant attention, or was it simply an interesting anecdote? Since CBS and NBC made note of the exchange, did they have an obligation to follow up with the Black Caucus? Was it important to point out that the Black Caucus had approached the president with a letter and heard nothing back?

“I think this one is a judgement call,” Soledad O’Brien, Journalist and CEO of Starfish Media, wrote in an email. “In a presser that lasted one hour and 17 mins, there was a lot to cover. I thought the story was interesting, but not shocking.”

Vivian Schiller, former executive of New York Times, NPR, NBC, and Twitter, also gave her thoughts.

“In my view, this story is a perfect reflection of Trump’s character and attitude towards African-American issues,” Schiller wrote in an email. “As such it is an anecdote. As a news story it’s not very significant. As an illustration of how cavalier he is, it’s pitch perfect.”

Ilana Bernstein

Ilana Bernstein

Ilana Bernstein is a junior pursuing a double degree in broadcast journalism and theatre at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ilana has interned for Girls’ Life Magazine and has had numerous articles published online. She was featured in the magazine. Ilana is a staff reporter for The Writer’s Bloc, an online publication that focuses on arts, culture and politics. Ilana has a passion for travel and community service and has worked with inmates at a prison in Connecticut, visited Estonia and Latvia, and visited with people previously on death row in New Orleans. Ilana can be reached at: ilanab@terpmail.umd.edu

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