A testy exchange during Tuesday’s daily White House press briefing ultimately ended in Press Secretary Sean Spicer telling a reporter: “Stop shaking your head.”
April Ryan, who is the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, asked Spicer how the administration will “revamp its image” in regard to a variety of issues from the president’s first two months in office – including Trump’s connection to Russia.
Interrupting Ryan, Spicer firmly asserted, “I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You’ve got Russia. If the President puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.”
As Ryan further pushed her question, Spicer got more annoyed. “At some point, report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion – Republican, Democrat. So I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head.”
The pair’s exchange continued, with Spicer telling Ryan once more, “Please stop shaking your head again.”
Tweeted Ryan after the briefing, “Lawd!!!!”
Ryan, a 20-year veteran of the White House press corps, tells PEOPLE she wasn’t even shaking her head. “I dropped my head. I was listening to him and thinking of my follow-up question.”
“The bottom line is this: Sean Spicer is doing his job spinning or presenting the facts for the president. And I’m a reporter,” Ryan says. “Sometimes we knock heads. But this is not new. This day is new, but this is now new.”
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Covering the Trump White House and Spicer’s daily briefings is rough. “It’s stressful on a daily basis. You don’t know where they’re going and how things are going to be received.”
“My question today was not a hard question: ‘How are you changing your image?’ “
“I guess it’s hard up there for [Spicer],” Says Ryan. “I’m trying to put myself in his position. I know how I feel. For him, it must be hard to stand up there and be fielding questions that are valid and try to come up with real answers when the answers aren’t in your boss’s favor.”
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Ryan, who also notably went toe-to-toe with former President Obama’s first press secretary Robert Gibbs, did not second those who read sexism or racism into Spicer’s treatment of her.
“I was roadkill today,” Ryan told MSNBC after the White House briefing.
Asked if she felt “demeaned” as The Washington Post put it, Ryan tells PEOPLE:
“I feel like I’m in combat. And I feel numb. But it’s like something my mother used to always say: ‘It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.’ I would have been demeaned if I stooped to the level he was trying to take me to. But I’m not demeaned. I’m the same April who came to work this morning and the same April who will come back to work tomorrow morning. How he treated me wasn’t nice, but I still walk with my head up high. This is not a day to be proud of but I have nothing to be ashamed of.”