This series is titled Snowflake-in-Chief for a reason. The administration of Donald Trump has been the skowflakeist in recent memory, making for interesting reporting and even more interesting watching. This came up on CNN yesterday. It was a panel discussion hosted by Don Lemon (CNN) and featuring the following:
- Ben Ferguson, host of the Ben Ferguson Show (upper left)
- Angela Rye, former Executive Director Congressional Black Caucus (upper right)
- Paris Dennard, CNN political commentator—Director of Black Outreach for President George W. Bush (lower left)
- Symone Sanders, former press sectary for Bernie Sanders (lower right)
What unloaded all this was a back and forth between reporter April Ryan and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. It is not news that the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government. Ryan was asking a question and was being too persistent. The result is today’s source of humor. From NBC News:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer snapped at a female reporter on Tuesday over a question about the administration’s image, telling the veteran White House correspondent to “stop shaking your head” — a snide comment that drew rebuke from Hillary Clinton and several prominent women journalists.
Spicer got into a heated exchange with American Urban Radio Networks’ correspondent April Ryan at the White House press briefing after the reporter asked how President Donald Trump’s administration would work to repair its image.
Ryan followed up with a question about Trump’s meeting with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whom Trump made a vulgar comment about in 2006.
Spicer then accused Ryan of wanting to push an agenda, telling her from the podium to “stop shaking your head.”
“April, hold on, it seems like you’re hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays,” he said.
“I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again,” he added.
A reporter should stop shaking her head? Good thing Spicer didn’t notice I was shaking my head while I watched this on YouTube. What is equally interesting, maybe more so, was the response of panel members Ferguson and Dennard. Both have a conservative bent, to say the least, and both jumped in to prop up the administration.
Lemon: Paris, I know you want to jump in. He became annoyed [for asking the question], how is he [Trump] going to revamp his image, given the rocky start this administration has had. Is that a reasonable question for her to ask?
Dennard: No, I don’t think it was an unreasonable question to ask, if that had been the only question. I think it was a series of questions, back to back to back, and that she was not giving him a chance to answer the questions. And oft times what happens is, when you give an answer these journalists do not like, they continue and press and press until they try to get you to answer the way they want you to answer.
Lemon: That’s what a reporter does…
I’m with Lemon on this. I am not a reporter, but when I ask somebody a question, and they make an attempt at evasion, then I get to thinking there’s something more here, and I press for details—something to back up what the person has just told me. Sometimes I ask peripheral questions, when all the while the question I want to ask is “What did you do with the body?”
At the heart of the matter is Trump’s charge back on 4 March that President Obama ordered wire taps on his (Trump’s) phones in Trump Tower. That has devolved into multiple (another way of saying unanimous) reports back from the Justice Department that no such order was given, nor could it have been given by a president. That migrated into the matter coming before the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, headed up by Devin Nunes, Republican congressman from California and previously a member of the Trump administration transition team. At a point a few days ago Congressman Nunes saw fit to get himself to the White House with the errand of reporting to President Trump that a review of intelligence documents revealed transition team members had been recorded during monitoring by American intelligence agencies. Trump quickly leveraged this revelation into vindication of his original claim, and subsequently Nunes was back on the White House grounds receiving additional information. As a side note, practically all Democrats and some Republicans in the government see these goings on as evidence Nunes has allegiance to the administration and not to the Committee. Under this pressure, Secretary Spicer turned unusually prickly, even for him.
An item appearing in The Week elaborates further:
Ryan was reminding Spicer of all the Russia-related news the White House is dealing with — the scuttled Sally Yates testimony, President Trump’s widely dismissed claims he was wiretapped at Trump Tower, the broader Russia investigation — and Spicer cut it, rejecting the premise. “No, we don’t ‘have’ that,” he said. “I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whenever that there’s not a connection. You’ve got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.”
Nevertheless, Ryan persisted. Spicer selectively insisted that everyone has dismissed reports of Trump-Russia collusion, despite the ongoing FBI investigation, and told Ryan, “I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head.” He accused her of pursuing an “agenda” and ignoring “facts,” and when she changed subjects to ask about a White House visit by Condoleezza Rice, Spicer accused Ryan of being “hellbent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays,” adding again: “Please, stop shaking your head again.”
Yes, reporter for the American Urban Radio Networks April Ryan, quit shaking your head when the press secretary evades your questions and dresses you down. Ryan recalled her impressions following the briefing:
“I’ve been here for 20 years, since 1997, the second term of Bill Clinton,” Ryan told MSNBC’s Katy Tur afterwards. “We’ve never seen anything like this before. And my question was simple. How do you change the perception problem basically? I don’t know verbatim what I said, but that was the impetus and the crux of my question. And it went off into this Russian dressing, no shaking my head or whatever.”
“I understand what Sean is doing,” Ryan said, “Sean is being the White House press secretary talking about and trying to make this administration look better than what it does right now. Unfortunately, I was roadkill today.”
Ben Ferguson was the other panelist to push back, to defend the administration:
Ferguson: First, he didn’t lash out at her. He defended the White House, and I think there is one thing that the press sometimes does, especially in the White House. They act as if somehow they’re above the average American person, or they’re somehow better than other people, or they’re elitists, or they’re special.
Right. A person, selected by a responsible news organization selects from its cadre a qualified reporter to attend these White House briefings, where often the most critical news affecting the planet gets disclosed. And then these reporters are expected to humble themselves and act like Archie Bunker next door. What does that remind me of? Oh, yes:
A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.
There have been times in the past when a reporter needed to get hard nosed with the President of the United States:
During Richard Nixon‘s presidency, critics accused Rather of biased coverage against him. At a Houston news conference in March 1974, Nixon fielded a question from Rather, still CBS’s White House correspondent, who said, “Thank you, Mr. President. Dan Rather, of CBS News.” The room filled with jeers and applause, prompting Nixon to joke, “Are you running for something?” Rather replied, “No, sir, Mr. President. Are you?” In his question, Rather accused Nixon of not cooperating with the grand jury investigation and the House Judiciary Committee in relation to the Watergate scandal.
Do we need snippy White House Correspondents, such as April Ryan, even today? Especially today. You go, April.