News has been hard to watch since the 2016 election, no matter where you stand politically. Things are tense and scary, which is why it didn’t help that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders snapped at journalist April Ryan when she asked a question about slavery.
We’re not saying the job of press secretary is easy — it’s likely a stressful, thankless gig — but the Trump administration’s press secretaries have been infamously easy to anger. Remember Sean Spicer? Or Anthony Scaramucci? And things got especially uncomfortable Wednesday when current press secretary Sanders snapped after receiving a question about the White House’s position on slavery and the Civil War.
In case you missed it, earlier this week Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly appeared on Fox News to discuss the removal of Confederate monuments across the country. During the interview, Kelly defended Confederate general Robert E. Lee, adding “[…] the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”
People were quick to take issue with Kelly’s statement.
Many also noted that, when it comes to slavery, there shouldn’t have to be any “compromise.”
On Tuesday, press secretary Sanders defended parts of John Kelly’s comments, specifically in regard to Robert E. Lee, saying, “All leaders are flawed.” As she left the podium, journalist April Ryan called out, “Does this administration believe slavery was wrong?” to which Sanders gave no reply.
On Wednesday, Ryan again asked Sanders to clarify the administration’s stance on slavery and compromise. Sanders told Ryan that she wasn’t going to “re-litigate” the Civil War, adding, “I think it is disgusting and absurd to suggest anyone inside this building would support slavery.”
There is nothing “disgusting” or “absurd” about a journalist trying to do her job and make sense of the administration’s defense of a controversial historical figure who fought to keep slavery in place. And Sanders’ initial defense of Kelly’s comments, in which she said “all leaders are flawed,” was reminiscent of Trump’s initial response to the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville this summer, in which he said that there were “many sides” to the issue.
For her part, Ryan defended her line of questioning on CNN, saying:
When all is said and done, we think it’s fair to say that a journalist politely and respectfully asking a question deserves a polite and respectful answer in return. Representatives of our White House can and should do better.