This week was no exception.
On March 26, Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he doubts the coronavirus battle requires the number of medical equipment pieces requested by some states.
At Sunday’s coronavirus press conference, PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor—a Black woman—asked the president a question many of us were wondering: Could Trump really think governors are asking for equipment they don’t actually need?
In response, President Trump interrupted, attacked and insulted Alcindor.
“It’s always getcha, getcha, getcha,” Trump snapped. “That’s why nobody trusts the media anymore. That’s why you used to work for [The New York Times], but now you work for somebody else.”
Trump cut her off and did not allow her to finish her line of questioning, patronizing her with comments like, “That’s enough.”
Later in the conference, when CNN correspondent Jeremy Diamond was called on by the president, he passed the microphone directly to Alcindor so she could ask her second question (which Trump had refused to let her to get out): What are health officials are telling Trump about mental health-related deaths, like suicide?
Although Alcindor’s question was directed to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump refused to allow Fauci to answer, explaining, “It’s common sense.”
At a different press conference, another woman reporter of color, NBC correspondent Kristen Welker, received similar treatment to Alcindor: When she asked Trump if he feels he should take any responsibility for the lag in coronavirus testing, he responded (through a smug sneer), “No, I don’t take responsibility at all.”
In the past, the president has called women reporters of color “stupid,” “a loser,” and, ironically, “racist.”
While these women have a history of being the recipient of Trump’s disdain, they—and their allies—have an equally robust track record of fighting back.
Often, rebukes come in the form of tweets or live appearances supporting fellow journalists and themselves—refusing to show the president that his hateful, racist comments would ever stop them from seeking and reporting the truth.
Beyond the president’s open discrimination, journalists of color still have the odds stacked against them: The first Black female White House reporter, Alice Allison Dunnigan, started her career in the 1947.
Yet, today, an overwhelming majority of the White House press corps is still white. According to the American Society of News Editors, minority journalists accounted for only 16.6 percent of the workforce in 2017. (For reference, the population of minorities in the United States is now at 39 percent.)
President Trump’s actions are causing the White House to further regress—leaving people in the U.S. wondering if he acts this way toward women of color out of a power trip, or fear.
“Things have gotten contentious between the president and the press, but this is unlike anything we’ve seen since the days that African Americans were first allowed into the White House to report,” said Marcia Chatelain, an African-American studies professor at Georgetown University.
“Although we have a 70-year history of African-American reporters being brought into the White House, it seems that this president wants to extend beyond those years in the days that they were banned,” she added.
Even still, the journalists’ refusal to let Trump’s charged language stop them from asking important questions reveal simultaneously the women’s strength and the president’s weakness: Instead of taking these questions in stride, he instantly attacks.
These journalists, while they recognize the hardships that accompany their jobs, continue to ask important questions and ignore the bigoted comments of the president.
We are grateful for their persistence and their grit—for they prioritize informing U.S. citizens in the face of personal attacks.
Their selflessness and strength does not go unnoticed.
The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving.
During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media.
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