For all of its shortcomings and limitations, one very useful benefit of Twitter is that it has exposed the breathtaking ignorance of so many supposedly well-educated journalists. A recent stunning example involves April Ryan, who, after the first two pages of Donald Trump's 2005 federal tax return were illegally revealed Tuesday on MSNBC, tweeted: "So in 2005 @POTUS was not a Billionaire," because "He made in 2005 over 100 million dollars."
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Ryan is currently the White House Correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief for American Urban Radio Networks, has been covering the White House for 20 years, and has been a journalist for almost three decades, having graduated from Morgan State University in 1989 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
It should be obvious that a person's income in one year doesn't determine whether his or her net worth is more or less than $1 billion — but not to April Ryan, whose tasks as a White House correspondent include communicating with the public coherently about the federal budget and the national debt. Sadly, Ryan appears to have plenty of ignorant company, based on the almost 200 retweets and over 400 likes seen above.
It's reasonable to believe that someone who doesn't understand the difference between income and net worth doesn't genuinely understand the difference between an annual federal budget deficit (officially $587 billion during the most recent fiscal year) and the national debt (currently nearly $20 trillion, an amount which officially increased by $1.42 trillion during the fiscal year because other off-budget items add to the national debt).
It's also reasonable to believe that Ryan's ignorance has affected her reporting. Take this example from February 2011, cited by Alex Fitzsimmons at NewsBusters, as President Barack Obama unveiled his fiscal 2012 budget:
During the presidential press conference this afternoon, April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio, cited the Congressional Black Caucus to rail against spending cuts, which she claims were tantamount to "rebuilding our economy on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans."
The supposedly awful spending "cuts" of $90 billion Obama proposed weren't even genuine reductions of year-over-year spending, and the economizing moves Obama cited in the press conference largely involved reductions in defense spending and a one-year freeze in federal salaries.
But the key point made by Fitzsimmons was this:
By the administration's own estimates, the country would have to borrow an additional $7.2 trillion through 2021. With such a bleak bottom line, it strains credulity to claim that Obama's budget blueprint calls for "deep," and "big" cuts that will "rein in" spending and "spread the pain to just about every American."
But it's now easy to see, with her Tuesday tweet, why screaming about "deep" and "big" budget "cuts" made sense to April Ryan: She doesn't appear to grasp the distinction between annual budget deficits and the frightening level of the country's national debt.
Sometime Wednesday, Ryan protected her Twitter account, so that "Only confirmed followers have access."
One thing which is indisputably obvious is Ryan's seething hostility towards Donald Trump and his administration. As Kristine Marsh at NewsBusters noted on February 22 (bolds are mine):
During Tuesday’s press conference ...Ryan asked Spicer a series of hostile questions about President Trump’s attitudes towards blacks. Most dubiously, Ryan claimed Trump once said white America "made this country,” a statement she could not back up after Spicer questioned the legitimacy of this “quote” from the president.
After the presser, Ryan was asked by one user where she could find this statement from Trump. Ryan responded, “Look it up and you will find it.” Since no one actually could find it, (because it doesn’t exist), Ryan responded again today on Twitter with video “proof.”
In the clip (from a March 2016 campaign rally), Trump says: "... We have a right to speak. We are law-abiding people. We are people that work very hard. We are people that built this country and made this country great. And we’re all together. And we want to get along with everybody."
... Ryan got pushback with users asking how Trump’s statement was talking about white Americans.
Ryan’s response? Call the people holding her accountable for making a baseless claim, racists.
In mid-February, Ryan got into a personal spat with a former friend in the Trump White House (link is in original):
On Tuesday, a war of words broke out between Omarosa Manigault, an administration communications official, and April Ryan, a longtime White House reporter, stemming from a heated exchange the two had last week in the White House press office.
... The two women were formerly friends. But Ryan said their friendship ended in October when Manigault accused Ryan of being paid by Hillary Clinton's campaign. That accusation, which Ryan vehemently denies, appears to be based on Manigault's misreading of an Intercept article about Clinton's relationship with the press (the article does not state that Ryan is paid by the Clinton campaign).
The Intercept article in question places Ryan's name on a list of "Columnist/Pundit Calls," apparently indicating that the roughly 30 people listed were considered willing relayers of whatever messaging the Clinton campaign wished to promulgate.
While it appears that Manigault misinterpreted the Intercept post, which claimed that "pundits regularly featured on cable news programs were paid by the Clinton campaign without any disclosure when they appeared" but did not specifically tag Ryan as one of those pundits, it's fair to contend that Ryan, regardless of whether she was paid, served as a de facto Clinton surrogate during the presidential campaign.
That's because she was one of "25 mainstream reporters" who, according to a WikiLeaks document, RSVP'd when invited to an off-the-record dinner at John Podesta’s house on April 9, 2015. This event and similar ones were about "framing the HRC message and framing the race" so that friendly reporters could tailor their coverage to fit that framing.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.