On the C-SPAN Book TV interview show In Depth on Sunday, White House correspondent April Ryan spoke emotionally about asking President Trump three times (without an answer) if he was a racist. She smiled in recalling "the great Dan Rather" said it was a "good question," but he knew she's get heat for it.
C-SPAN host Peter Slen told Ryan he was going to air a video clip from January 12, 2018, when you can hear a disembodied voice shouting at the president "Are you a racist?"
PETER SLEN: What is going on?
APRIL RYAN: That one still brings tears to my eyes.
SLEN: We heard a voice at the end say, "Mr. President, are you a racist?"
RYAN: That was me.
SLEN: That was you.
RYAN: That was me. I asked him three times, I believe. You know what, that’s been how many years and I still have not come to terms with that question.
SLEN: Over two now.
RYAN: I haven’t come to terms with that question. I don’t regret asking it. The reason why I have not come to terms with that question is because in 2020, right now, in 2018, no matter who the president is, we’ve advanced supposedly as a community, and I don't think any reporter should ever have to ask that question of a sitting U.S. President.
Dan Rather said to me -- the, great Dan Rather – he said ‘oh boy,’ when he said he heard that question, ‘oh boy, that was a good question, but I knew she was going to get it.’
Let's talk about the lead up and the day that that happened. That was the King holiday weekend. If it weren’t for Doctor King, I wouldn’t be in that White House. If it weren’t for Dr. King, Peter, you and I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. And that’s sacred to me.
Ryan was big on the word "sacred." Voting is "sacred." The White House is a "sacred space." And she touted that while her critics can call her a fool, she is "part of history."
Ryan oddly claimed during this show that she’s not partisan. But she also said she was goaded into it by voices all around her: “all my sources, black leaders, quote-unquote black leaders, Democrats -- 'he's a racist, he's a racist, he's a racist.' You had Hispanic and black leaders very upset about Trump allegedly saying 'S---hole nation.’ And it was my pool day [meaning she represented other reporters in the press pool]. I had not determined to ask that question until it came out of my mouth.” She said the whole "S-hole" controversy "begged the question."
Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple later described Ryan's style as "forever respectful," but is asking someone if he's a racist a respectful question? Does it deserve an answer? It's a damaging accusation. It carries the echo of character assassination.
At almost the same time, Ryan was on TV touting Oprah Winfrey for President as a "rock star" like Barack Obama, a stark contrast with Donald Trump.