Readers Respond

Trump attack on black journalists reinforces old stereotypes

Perhaps it was Michelle Obama who set our president off on his latest hate-filled tirade — this time aimed at black, female journalists.

Excerpts released Friday from the former First Lady’s memoir blasted Donald Trump for pushing the conspiracy theory that her husband wasn’t born in the United States.


Suddenly every black women that crossed President Trump’s path caught his wrath. That same day he hurled a slew of insults against journalists Abby Phillip and April Ryan that touched on every derogatory stereotype that depicts black women as inferior, lazy and unintelligent.

He called Ms. Ryan, a Baltimore native and White House Bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, nasty and stupid and insinuated that she wasn’t qualified for her job. “She doesn’t know what the hell she is doing. She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise.”


Stupid was also the choice word he used to describe CNN reporter Abby Phillip, who asked whether he appointed Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general in hopes that he would stop an investigation into Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

“What a stupid question,” he said. “I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”

Of course the depictions are far from reality. Ms. Phillip is a Harvard College graduate who also worked at The Washington Post and Politico. Ms. Ryan is a longtime White House reporter who covered many presidents before Mr. Trump.

The women did nothing wrong. They were simply doing their jobs.

Mr. Trump’s disdain for journalists and “fake news” is widely known, and many news outlets and journalists have been caught in the crossfire — especially when they ask him questions he doesn’t like. Mr. Trump revoked CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s credentials last week and has threatened to take away even more.

But his attacks on black women seem particularly hostile; his abuse more vile when it is aimed at people he thinks are beneath him. His criticism of Ms. Phillip and Ms. Ryan ended a week of insults at black women.

He also laid into a third black journalist, PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, last week after she probed about his self-depiction as a nationalist and how it may be fueling white nationalism. He called her question racist and never answered it.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters has been a repeat target of his insults. He has called her a “low IQ person” and given her the nickname “crazy Maxine,” after she criticized his immigration policies and suggested people make his supporters feel uncomfortable when they see them.


The National Association of Black Journalists was correct in a statement that said his comments directed at the journalists were an all-time low. President Sarah Glover said his comments were “appalling and irresponsible. They should be denounced.”

And many others have condemned his actions, including fellow journalists who showered praise on the women.

But journalists need to figure out a way to take an even tougher stance as criticism of the president only seems to egg him on even more. There was talk of boycotting the White House briefings, a plan that might be hard to get a whole group on board with and may make it look like the press is at war with the nation’s highest office. (We would say it would also be an abdication of the press’ responsibility to inform the public, but White House press briefings are not exactly a font of insight or facts.) A better tactic may be to give less air time and print space to the president’s antics. Stick to the real news and don’t make his shenanigans the news.

What should not happen is that journalists like Ms. Alcindor, Ms. Phillip and Ms. Ryan let Mr. Trump bully them out of doing their jobs.

So far they have taken the high road.

Ms. Alcindor and Ms. Phillip have stayed largely quiet about the issue.


In a Tweet, Ms. Alcindor said: I followed up the president calling my question ‘racist’ with a policy question about his proposed middle class tax cut because that’s what journalists do. We press on. We focus on the privilege of asking questions for a living. We do the work.”

Ms. Ryan told The Baltimore Sun Friday that she is numb “but I am okay and continue my job with the support of both CNN and American Urban Radio Network.”

In the words of Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.”