After 20 years of covering the White House and three administrations, Ryan this year suddenly found herself thrust in the center of controversy on several occasions. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who has accused her of having an agenda, scolded her for shaking her head. In another incident, President Donald Trump awkwardly asked her to set up a meeting between him and the Congressional Black Caucus presumably because, well, she’s Black. Omarosa Manigault, an administration communications official, was also accused of bullying Ryan in a kerfuffle.
That’s not all. The Trump administration is also coming under fire for its lack of diversity and bringing a distemperate tone to the presidential office, Ryan said in a talk that was moderated a week ago Tuesday by Tamika D. Mallory, co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington and CEO of Mallory Consulting, at MIST restaurant in Harlem.
Here’s an excerpt from the conversation:
“You can see the difference, and it’s not just in the coloring,” she said. “Orange is the new Black. When President Barack Obama walked into the Oval Office, well, he bopped in. [Obama] was unapologetic like, ”Hey, what’s up?’ And he did it with elegance and class. He’s mixed race, but he was a Black man in that Oval Office.
“But on “Jan. 20 at 12:01 PM, we saw a big difference. The bop was gone. It was a long tie with an open coat. If you follow social media, it’s all people were talking about. There was a change in the cadence, the tone, and the conversation. [On Inauguration Day,] we were still expecting to hear a soaring speech or something to bring us together. Instead, you had people sitting on the podium giving the side-eye.”
Ryan, 49, is the author of At Mama’s Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White and The Presidency in Black and White: My Up-Close view of Three Presidents and Race in America.