President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for reporters, whom he calls “fake news” and “enemy of the American people.” He’s also had unkind things to say about women and people who are African American.
This week, he hit a trifecta, singling out three African American women who are journalists. The women — Abby Phillip, April Ryan and Yamiche Alcindor — earned his contempt apparently just for asking him questions.
Trump called one of Phillip’s questions “stupid,” described Ryan as “a loser” and brushed off Alcindor, saying her question was “racist.”
Phillip, a CNN reporter and former Washington Post journalist, drew Trump’s wrath on Friday, after she asked whether he hoped Matthew G. Whitaker, Trump’s appointee as acting attorney general, would “rein in” special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question,” Trump snapped. He didn’t answer the allegedly “stupid” question, but he did pour more contempt on Phillip. “I watch you a lot,” he said. “You ask a lot of stupid questions.”
He suggested he was considering pulling other reporters’ press credentials to cover the White House, as he did with CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday. Among those he brought up in that context was Ryan.
“You talk about someone who’s a loser,” Trump said of Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio Networks and a contributor to CNN. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise, or she gets a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty and she shouldn’t be. You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”
Trump’s “loser” comment came two days after he admonished Ryan at a White House news conference.
“Sit down! I didn’t call you,” Trump commanded after Ryan tried to ask him about alleged voter suppression in the midterm elections. “Such a hostile media, it’s so sad,” Trump added as Ryan pressed him. “You rudely interrupted him,” Trump told her, referring to another reporter.
A few moments later, Alcindor asked Trump about his recent characterization of himself as “a nationalist” and whether that label was “emboldening white nationalists.”
Trump interrupted her and responded, “I don’t know why you say that, that is such a racist question.” He repeated that characterization — “racist” — two more times.
Trump has disparaged many people, so his responses to Phillip, Ryan and Alcindor might simply reflect equal-opportunity contempt. But all three of the latest examples fall into the categories of people — journalists, women, African Americans — for whom Trump has reserved special nastiness. Among the African American figures are Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters of California and Frederica S. Wilson of Florida.
“He’s not able to finesse his disdain for certain people,” Ryan said in an interview Friday. “Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately because you can see for yourself what it is, perception is reality with this president. . . He attacks the people he feels are beneath him.”
She added, “He’s not apparently built for this. Being in the pressure cooker of the White House has exposed him for what he is.”
Phillip didn’t respond to several requests for comment on Friday. Alcindor declined to comment but tweeted after Wednesday’s news conference, “I followed up the president calling my question ‘racist’ with a policy question about his proposed middle class tax cut because that’s what journalists do. We press on. We focus on the privilege of asking questions for a living. We do the work.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“The most powerful man in the free world is verbally abusing journalists,” she said. “Donald Trump’s comments this week have reached an all-time low with attacks on three black female journalists.”
She called Trump’s comments about Ryan, Phillip and Alcindor “appalling and irresponsible. They should be denounced.”