Not surprisingly, the flattering question came from Jenn Pellegrino of One America News Network, a right-wing channel favored by the president.
“Mr. President, your approval ratings have been the highest they’ve ever been, as well as the ratings on your handling of the virus,” she said, “yet there are some networks that are saying they’re debating whether or not to carry these briefings live. Do you think there’s a link between the two?”
“Boy that’s a nice question,” Trump said in response. “Thank you very much.”
Later, Trump called on Pellegrino again, and she asked a variation of the same question, about networks that were not broadcasting his briefings in full, confounding many people tuned into the briefing.
Trump responded by bashing CNN, the New York Times and The Washington Post. Then, he boasted about his high TV ratings, comparing the briefing viewership numbers to prime time television programs like “The Bachelor.”
“I read that CNN doesn’t want to cover them, except that they can’t help it because their ratings are so high,” Trump said. “The ratings are like ‘Monday Night Football’ ratings.”
In between Pellegrino’s questions, Trump called on “PBS NewsHour” reporter Yamiche Alcindor.
“Mr. President, I have two questions,” she said. “The first is you’ve said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting they don’t actually need. You said New York might not need 30,000 …”
Trump didn’t let her finish.
“I didn’t say that,” he said.
“You said it on Sean Hannity’s Fox News,” Alcindor responded, accurately.
“Come on, come on. Why don’t you people — why don’t you act in a little more positive? It’s always ‘get ya, get ya, get ya.’ And you know what? That’s why nobody trusts the media anymore.”
Alcindor, who is a black woman, tried to finish her question, but Trump interrupted again: “Look, let me tell you something. Be nice. Don’t be threatening. Be nice.”
Trump’s reaction to Alcindor’s question recalled past incidents in which the president has cast black female reporters as “stupid,” “a loser” and “racist.”
On March 13, when Alcindor asked whether the suspension of the White House pandemic office slowed the country’s response to the coronavirus, Trump called it a “nasty question.”
He got personal again Sunday with Alcindor, making what he seemed to consider disparaging comments about her career.
“Excuse me,” said the president at one point, “you didn’t hear me, that’s why you used to work for The Times and now you work for somebody else,” a reference to the New York Times and “PBS NewsHour.”
The president didn’t call on Alcindor to ask a second question, even though she had told him she had a follow-up.
But a few minutes later, in a display of professional support, CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond handed the microphone back to the “NewsHour” journalist so she could ask Trump which public health experts supported his claims that more people would die from the economic impact of social distancing than from coronavirus infections. Trump didn’t give any names.
Thanks to @JDiamond1 for passing me the microphone & letting me ask my second question.— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 29, 2020
I asked: Which health professionals are telling you that more people will die from the economic impact than coronavirus?
Trump didn’t answer directly and instead just repeated his claims.
After the briefing, Alcindor responded to the president’s advice to “be nice” on Twitter.
“I’m not the first human being, woman, black person or journalist to be told that while doing a job,” she wrote in a tweet. “My take: Be steady. Stay focused. Remember your purpose. And, always press forward.”
“I love Yamiche because she’s not hysterical,” comedian Paula Poundstone, who is often a panelist on NPR’s quiz show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” said on Twitter. “She remains calm, and asks important, reasonable questions that need answers. She understands the importance of facts.”