Amid Threats of Violence, White House Reporter April Ryan Fights for the Press

April Ryan - Getty - H 2018
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

The CNN contributor says she recently hired a bodyguard on her own dime.

Few reporters have lived the Trump administration's war against the press more vividly than April Ryan, a 21-year veteran of the White House press corps who has seen her national profile grow along with concerns about her physical safety.

"They've put a target on my head.... I've had death threats. I've had craziness," said Ryan, who revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that she recently hired a bodyguard to protect her. "All I'm going to say for my safety is: I have a team." (She said the White House should pay for her protection.)

On Sept. 1, Rowman & Littlefield will publish her new book, Under Fire: Reporting From the Front Lines of the Trump White House (former Today show co-host Tamron Hall wrote the book's forward). Ryan is scheduled to promote the book on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, This Week with George Stephanopoulos‎ and across CNN, the network that employs her as a contributor. (Her main gig is covering the White House and Washington for American Urban Radio Networks.)

She spoke to THR about her contentious relationship with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, her public split from ex-friend Omarosa Manigault Newman, and the overall climate of hostility toward the press that President Trump has fostered.

Ryan alleged that Manigault Newman teased and then promoted a revelation about a tape of Trump saying the N-word because she wanted to distract attention away from Aretha Franklin's failing health and passing as an act of retribution. "She did it because Aretha Franklin didn't want her at her birthday party," Ryan said. "That's how vindictive Omarosa is."

Why did you write the book?

What's happening is unprecedented. I am a member of the press corps, one of the deans of the press corps now...and I've been under attack. And lied on. Treated terribly. And if I don't tell the story, you won't get it. So, I'm putting it out there, because people see one side of it. I'm giving you the whole thing.... The way they've treated me for asking questions that are fair and logical. They're still very angry at me for asking the question, "Mr. President, are you a racist?" And that's why I'm on a list.... Since when is asking a question of a president making you a criminal? Or making you an "enemy of the people"?

What is the list you said you're on?

The blacklist. The White House blacklist.... Me, [CNN chief White House correspondent] Jim Acosta. We're on the blacklist. [CNN White House correspondent] Kaitlan Collins. People they don't like.

Has the hiring of former Fox News executive Bill Shine escalated the White House's attacks on the press? The White House recently punished Collins for asking Trump questions during a pool spray.

This is a continuation of what's been going on. It's not the lowest level, but they're still sinking lower and lower. I don't think this is about Bill Shine. It's about the president. The buck stops with the president — if he allows it, or if he sanctions it, or if he calls for it. It all stops and starts with him. And he hasn't stopped it. He's perpetuating it when he goes to the rallies. So Bill Shine is just following the leader.

If she's just following the president's marching orders, is fair to criticize White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

All of the above. All of the above. She should be ashamed of herself for going out there, saying some of the things that she's said. She tries to insult my intelligence. And not just my intelligence, the world's intelligence.... They always have to go back and press-splain, man-splain the president after he says something. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Words mean something, especially when you get to that level. 

We even tried to have a reset. I talk about it in my book. She baked a pie. I did not eat the pie. She tried to figure out where we went wrong. But she continues to berate me.... We had dinner, trying to reset, and it just went downhill.


The reset continues. Conversations are always good. @presssec

A post shared by April D. Ryan (@adr1600) on

How long do you think Sanders will remain in the White House?

Oh, I hear she's looking for an elegant exit. So, I hear it's almost over. [Sanders has denied reports that she's planning to leave her job.]

How often do you get approached in public these days?

Oh, I get approached a lot, when I'm walking from my car, when I'm walking to my car, when I eat. Anywhere I go. I mean, they have put a target on my head, and I don't know who's who sometimes. It's an interesting dynamic.

You're concerned that people approaching you might be intending harm?

I've had some people wait for me outside the White House.... There is a concern now. I mean, I've had death threats, I've had craziness, so I have a real concern. An honest, real concern.... Do I have a bodyguard? Yes, I do. Am I paying for it? Yes, I am. And, I think [Sanders] should have to pay for it, especially if she's stirring it up with her boss.

... I did not sign up for this. I was just doing a job.

In February 2017, you had a heated discussion in the White House with Omarosa Manigault Newman, your former friend. You also said that she had the confrontation taped and tried to besmirch your reputation. Are you surprised that her new book, Unhinged, has gotten as much attention as it has?

No, because any time you — you can't make this mess up. People still don't like her, but they're willing to sit back and eat the popcorn and watch them shoot at each other, Donald Trump and Omarosa shoot at each other.... We don't want to see her called a "dog" by the president, but we don't trust her. She has done a lot of dirt, and people don't forget.....

Omarosa said a long time ago that she'd never be poor again. And if this is her way to be big and grand so she won't be poor, so be it. She'll throw anybody under the bus to get a dollar, and to have herself shine. So, more power to her.... People will be around for the spectacle, and she is providing a spectacle.