April Ryan, White House correspondent and DC bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, speaking at Howard Community College's Diversity Week.
April Ryan, White House correspondent and DC bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, speaking at Howard Community College's Diversity Week. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

While the right-wing messaging machine is trying to make it sound like a personality spat, April Ryan’s call for White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to be fired is a righteous and important one bigger than either of the people involved.

What Ryan’s call highlights is the way lying, smearing and slander have been institutionalized by the Trump White House to an extent not even done in Washington by the senator infamous for slander and lies, the late Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose career and life ended in disgrace.

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One of the things discovered in the release of the redacted Mueller report Thursday is that Sanders admitted to the special prosecutor that a statement she made made in a May 10, 2017, White House briefing about Trump’s firing of fired FBI Director James Comey was a lie. She further stated that President Trump privately praised her for the public dishonesty.

The White House was claiming in the wake of Trump’s firing of Comey that the rank and file in the FBI had lost confidence in its director and that was one of the reasons he had to go. When a reporter challenged that by saying the vast majority of agents in fact supported him, Sanders said, “Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”

The next day, she repeated the lie about Comey’s alleged lack of support in the agency.

In her interview with Mueller investigators, Sanders admitted her claims of Comey having lost support were not based on any facts or contact with FBI workers. She characterized her lie and smear of Comey as “a slip of the tongue.”

Here’s that portion of the report:

Following the press conference, Sanders spoke to the President, who told her she did a good job and did not point out any inaccuracies in her comments. Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from “countless members of the FBI” was a “slip of the tongue.” She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made “in the heat of the moment” that was not founded on anything.

Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and a CNN contributor, called for the firing of Sanders on Erin Burnett’s CNN show Thursday night.

“Not only does she not have credibility, she lied. She out and out lied. And the people, the American people can't trust her. They can't trust what's said from the president's mouthpiece-spokesperson from the people's house. Therefore, she should be let go. She should be fired, end of story,” Ryan said.

“When there is a lack of credibility there, you have to start and start lopping the heads off,” she added.

“It's fire me Thursday or fire me Good Friday. She needs to go,” the Morgan State University graduate added.

This isn’t about the two of them, even as symbolic representations of the press and the executive branch of government, which is cosmic enough.

This is about the way the most important podium in American life is used not just to routinely pump disinformation and confusion into our media ecosystem but also to try to destroy the White House’s enemies — even with baldfaced lying if the president and his minions think it will do their dirty business.

I grew up thinking the McCarthy era was one of the darkest and most dangerous epochs in American history. It was merely prelude to what’s happening in the White House today.

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