White House Correspondent April Ryan Speaks at Northeastern about Covering the Trump Administration

Derek Lumpkins of Northeastern Crossing joins April Ryan and Latoyia Edwards onstage after Ryan’s talk to present her with a brand new award for her “resilience” and advocation for social justice.

White House Correspondent and author April Ryan spoke in front of a crowd at Northeastern University on Feb. 8 as part of Northeastern Crossing’s 2019 Winter Gateway Speaker Series. Ryan was joined on stage by NBC 10 Anchor Latoyia Edwards, who moderated the conversation.

Ryan and Edwards discussed portions of Ryan’s latest book, “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House,” as well as some behind-the-scenes information about how Ryan feels reporting on this administration has differed from reporting on others. Ryan has covered the White House for 22 years, and she said that there has been retaliation at press conferences in the past, “but never like this.”

Ryan shared an anecdote about meeting Donald Trump at a New York fundraiser for a family member years ago. She said Bill Clinton was there and supposed to be the featured speaker, but Trump “monopolized Clinton’s time,” so people were upset because they could not get a hold of Bill Clinton, she said.

She recalls her first press conference with Donald Trump in office. “I didn’t look at it as racial at first,” she said. “I looked at it more as sinister than racial,” which elicited “ooohs” from he audience.

“The black unemployment rate is lower than it’s been, but it’s still twice as high as white,” she said. “You celebrate the dropping, but is that enough?”

She spoke of the behind-the-scenes information in her book, which she said was “political, but real. It’s unfortunate that it’s like this.”

Ryan said she’s spoken with a number of people who said that “Trump wasn’t like this” 20 years ago. “He wanted to be president, and he got there the way he could,” Ryan said. She said that Trump has financially supported Bill and Hillary Clinton in the past, as well as her own democratic cousin.

Edwards asked Ryan what changes she saw with Trump regarding his staff behind the scenes.

“It was chaos,” Ryan responded. “Kellyanne [Conway] came out talking about alternative facts and we were like what?” Ryan said the most important change is the “hatred of the press, the disdain for the press,” and she compared it to Watergate and the way Nixon treated the press. She said that during Trump’s presidency, hate groups have come into the press room.

Edwards also asked Ryan if she feels that minority reporters are under fire. “Yes, this president doesn’t care,” Ryan said. “He’ll go after you if you’re something he doesn’t like.” Ryan added that in her 22 years as a White House correspondent, she’s “never seen anything like this before.”

Ryan has to have bodyguards and security, and has received death threats. “There is an element of hate out there and when they say things like this and do things like this it’s targets on our heads,” she said.

She also spoke of one time where she asked President Trump if he was racist. “It is a sad day if a reporter has to ask a United States president if he’s a racist,” she said, and added that it “still bothers me to this day that I had to ask this question.”

After the hour-long talk, Derek Lumpkins, Director of Neighborhood Partnerships and Programs  at Northeastern Crossing, came on stage to offer Ryan an award.

“You so inspire all of us, in particular the departments that helped bring you here,” he said. “We created a new award for you. This is called the Winter Gateway Speaker event, and so we have the Gateway Access Award.”

Lumpkins read what was inscribed on the award, eliciting a rousing round of applause from the audience: “For exemplifying resilience and compellingly championing for social justice, transparency, access to  information, and defiance of systemic norms.”

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