Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Spicer’s actions Tuesday, labeling the incident an example of the kind of sexism that women encounter every day. But Spicer said that Ryan was a tough reporter and he was “astonished” at the accusation. He insisted that he treats the White House correspondent no different than male colleagues in the briefing room.
“I think if you ask April, both on and off camera during the briefings, she comes up here often, we have very spirited back and forth,” Spicer said in an interview on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. “I think that’s what makes her a tough reporter. Frankly I’m kind of astonished; I think if you look at the exchanges I have with [ABC’s] Jonathan Karl, or [NBC’s] Peter Alexander or a number of the other individuals in the press briefing room, Jim Acosta from CNN, we go back and forth all the time, rather heatedly in fact.”
Ryan had been trying to ask how the Trump administration would revamp its image when Spicer disagreed with the premise of her question and attacked her head shaking.
“I don’t think it takes much of a search to see that we go back and forth on a lot of the things that are thrown around and April is a tough reporter that knows how to throw it out and take it back,” Spicer said. “It’s frankly demeaning for some folks to say that she can’t take it. We went back and forth, I disagreed with her angle and the way she was coming at the question, but that’s what we do, we go back and forth. And I don’t treat one person different than the next.”
Clinton said during an appearance in San Francisco that Spicer was patronizing to Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.
“Just look at all that’s happened in the last few days to women who were simply doing their job,” she said. “April Ryan, a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity, was doing her job just this afternoon in the White House press room when she was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question,” she said.
Spicer disputed that he was being patronizing.
“I have an obligation frankly, Hugh, that when someone comes in and attacks the narrative or makes accusations against the administration, to push back, and push back tough,” he said. “And I don’t look and say ‘well I’m gonna push back lighter on this person because of their gender.’ I think it’s the exact opposite of what Secretary Clinton went after and tried to say somehow it’s patronizing. No, in fact, it’s not patronizing. What it is is treating April Ryan with the same pushback that I would any other reporter in that room.”
Ryan said on MSNBC after the incident that Spicer was doing his job.
“Sean is being the White House press secretary, talking about and trying to make this administration look better than what it does right now, and unfortunately I was road kill today,” she said.
On Wednesday, Spicer gave the first question to Ryan during the briefing, and asked her how she was doing.
“I’m fine, how are you?” Ryan replied.
“Fantastic,” Spicer said, as the press corps laughed.
This article has been updated to include the exchange at Wednesday’s briefing.