White House correspondent and Morgan State University alumna April D. Ryan made headlines after her questions about Russia and whether Trump's administration had plans to revamp their image received abrupt backlash from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Spicer told Ryan in a Tuesday briefing at the White House that she had an agenda and to “stop shaking” her head, which was met with shock and fury from viewers and on social media.
Ryan told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday morning that she must have struck a nerve, but she’s not sure what caused that moment.
“I’ve been doing the same thing and asking the same kinds of questions for 20 years. I didn’t do a ‘gotcha’ question. I didn’t do anything that I didn’t normally do,” Ryan said.
“We’ve never seen this, had this before” in the White House, said the American Urban Radio Networks reporter, adding that other journalists were also in shock and Twitter exploded after Spicer's heated comments yesterday.
Celebrities and current and former politicians “from both sides of the aisle,” reached out to her.
Hillary Clinton mentioned the altercation, as well as Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s comment comparing the hair of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., to a "James Brown wig," during a speech for a Professional BusinessWomen of California conference in San Francisco Tuesday.
“April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question. One of your own California congresswomen, Maxine Waters, was taunted with a racist joke about her hair,” Clinton said.
“Now, too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride. But why should we have to? And any woman that thinks these couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.”
Ryan said she was pleasantly surprised to learn about Clinton’s comments Tuesday night.
“I was like, ‘What? Are you kidding me?’ I couldn’t believe it. It feels good people know your heart and know who you are. I’m just thankful for that,” Ryan said.
Activist Brittany Packnett also started the trending hashtag “#BlackWomenatWork” on Twitter, asking black women to share their “Maxine and April moments, so people don’t think this is rare.”
“Today, we were told a Black woman's hair matters more than her voice, and our choices are under the control of others,” she tweeted. “This happens to black women everyday at work.”
Spicer commented on the exchange Wednesday morning on the radio with radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“April is a tough reporter that knows how to, you know, throw it out and take it back. So to somehow, I think it’s frankly demeaning for some folks to say that she can’t take it," Spicer said. "We went back and forth. I disagreed with the angle and the way that she was coming at the question, but that’s what we do. We go back and forth, and I don’t treat one person different than the next."
The exchange between Spicer and Ryan follows some other controversial moments Ryan has had within the past two and a half months, including when President Donald Trump asked her whether the Congressional Black Caucus were her "friends" and whether she could set up a meeting with them, and an alleged altercation with Omarosa Manigault, an American political aide to the White House who was a contestant on President Donald Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice.”
Ryan said she's human first, and that as a reporter, she doesn’t want to be the story.
“I want to continue to do my job. … Unfortunately, this is how the job is looking now, and it’s not good. This does not bode well for the democracy, for accountability, for reporting from the White House. It’s just ugly,” she said.
But she’s going to continue to raise her hand and ask questions. “Whether I get called on or not is another story.”
Come Wednesday afternoon's briefing, the tension between Spicer and Ryan appeared to be at ease. Spicer called on Ryan for the first question -- with an uncharacteristic big smile.
"April," Spicer said as the briefing room erupted into laughter. "How are you today?"
"I'm fine, and how are you?" Ryan responded, forgoing her usual rapid-fire questioning for a moment of pleasantries.
"Fantastic," Spicer said, before the two engaged in a back and forth over the proof of Russian involvement in the 2016 election.