Columns

April Ryan: Sarah Sanders ‘Trying to Make an Elegant Exit’ from White House

April Ryan at the 2018 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 7, 2018, in New Orleans. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

WASHINGTON – April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is on her way out of the administration and she’s “trying to make an elegant exit.”

In June, Sanders denied reports that she is leaving the White House.

During a discussion about her new book, Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House, Ryan reflected on her decision to ask President Trump if he is “a racist” in January of this year after he signed a proclamation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The signing took place a day after it was reported that Trump had referred to Haiti and African nations as “s-hole” countries.

“Those who were credible in the room said he said it. So I said, OK, Mr. President, are you a racist? I asked three times. He didn’t answer. That news dominated the weekend and he finally said he wasn’t, but as a man thinketh so is he. I actually cried walking out of the White House that day and fell into the arms of … a cameraman I knew from Baltimore because that was a crazy moment for me,” Ryan, a CNN political analyst, said at Politics and Prose in Washington on Tuesday evening.

“This has not been an easy time to be a reporter. Many of us don’t just go up there and raise our hand and say ‘oh’; we think about the consequences, the cause and the effect. We think about who it benefits and who it could hurt. There’s a lot that goes into asking questions – freedom of the press,” she added.

Ryan described herself as a “target” at the White House for asking tough questions.

“In the midst of all of this, being a target and under fire, which I am, I have hope. And the reason why I have hope is because we the people are still forming a more perfect union. We, the people, are still forming a more perfect union. In the midst of the attacks, in the midst of the death threats, I have done nothing wrong,” Ryan said.

“I’m not going to stop going back. I’m going to continue raising my hand. [Sanders] might not call on me, but that’s OK because she’s getting ready to leave anyway. She’s getting ready to leave, yeah, she’s trying to make an elegant exit. I’ve been there 21 years. I’ve never faced anything like this,” she added.

Ryan continued, “I’ll tell you what. I cannot leave and I will not leave as long as there is breath in me and as long as we still stand on what those great founding fathers, who had slaves, said – the First Amendment, the freedom of the press.”

The journalist said that voters sometimes forget that “we the people” fund the salaries of elected officials.

“We’ve forgotten how to think,” Ryan told the audience. “We’re forgetting we have power. It is not about a mayor, it’s not about a congressman, it’s not about a president of the United States. It’s about the people that elected them. They are to serve, and sometimes we forget you’re paying their salary. I think people are forgetting we have the power. Take back your power; that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Ryan said Trump is “in crisis right now and he’s acting out in crisis mode” and steps up his attacks on the media as a way to rally his base.

“He is in crisis. The nation is in crisis right now; a political crisis, it’s in a national security – people don’t realize this,” she said.

“There is a crisis and this president is feeling the stress of it. And the way he lashes out is to come after us, and that kind of emboldens his base and makes him feel like he’s doing the right thing because his base still believes in him, highly,” she added. “But the rest of the nation is seeing it like, ‘wow, what is going on?’ This is dangerous. It’s a dangerous game, but we are still committed.”