President Donald Trump, during a heated press conference where he repeatedly sparred with the press, asked veteran African-American journalist April Ryan if she could help set up a meeting between him and the Congressional Black Caucus, asking her, “Are they friends of yours?”
Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for the American Urban Radio Networks, asked Trump a question about his plan to fix the inner cities, something the president frequently alluded to on the campaign trail and since his electoral victory.
“When you say the inner cities, are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, inner city agenda?” Ryan asked at the contentious White House press conference.
“Well I would, tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?” Trump asked.
“I’m just a reporter. I know some of them,” Ryan replied.
“Let’s go, let’s set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus,” Trump continued.
Shortly after the press conference, Ryan took to Twitter to denounce the president’s request, saying: “I am a journalist not a convener! But thank you for answering my questions.”
I am a journalist not a convener! But thank you for answering my questions. https://t.co/fe9cGXG46w
— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) February 16, 2017
The Congressional Black Caucus responded to Trump’s call for a meeting by pointing to their letter addressed on Jan. 19 inviting Trump to “engage in an earnest effort to work together on these issues,” which the caucus sent went unanswered.
“Hi, @realDonaldTrump. We’re the CBC. We sent you a letter on January 19, but you never wrote us back. Sad!” the caucus wrote on Twitter.
Trump claimed Thursday that he had sought to meet with former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings, but that the meeting was canceled, speculating that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had ordered Cummings to do so.
Cummings rejected the charge in a statement released after the press conference.
“I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” he said. “Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President.”
Cummings added that he looked forward to meeting with Trump.
The president repeatedly attacked and lashed out at various reporters during the Thursday presser, referring to numerous outlets as “fake news.”
Prior to the exchange, Trump decried the conditions in inner cities, saying that many African-Americans are “living in hell” and pledged to be “very strong” on the subject.
“There’s one Chicago that’s incredible, luxurious and all, and safe,” he said. “There’s another Chicago that’s worse than almost any of the places in the Middle East.”
The highly-charged Thursday exchange was the second controversial encounter between the Trump administration and Ryan in recent days, with the veteran White House journalist reportedly accusing communications official and former reality star Omarosa Manigault of physically intimidating her last week.
Ryan told the Washington Post Monday that Manigault also verbally threatened her during a White House encounter last week, with Manigault allegedly alluding to a “dossier” of negative information the Trump administration had on her and other journalists.
Trump, who at a Wednesday press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dodged a question about anti-Semitism by boasting about his electoral victory, responded to a query Thursday about bombings at religious centers by touting his ability to relate to others on the campaign trail.
“I am the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” Trump said. “Number two, racism, [I’m] the least racist person. In fact, we did really well relative to other people running as a Republican.”
Reporter: Will you meet with the Congressional Black Caucus?
Trump: “I would. You want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?” pic.twitter.com/8Pp18KBUJd
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 16, 2017
Trump faced repeated charges of racism and anti-Semitism on the campaign trail. In recent weeks his administration came under fire for its failure to mention Jewish people in a statement about the Holocaust. His consistent allusions to the inner city when questioned about the plight of African-Americans in the United States, has also been scrutinized.