White House correspondent April Ryan, who claimed this week that Donald Trump said white people built America, is confident she heard him say this during the 2016 election.
"He had been saying it right after the cancellation of that Chicago rally due to violence," the American Urban Radio Networks reporter told the Washington Examiner, referring to a moment last year when protesters prompted the Queens businessman to cancel a campaign event in the Windy City.
Asked if she could cite a specific example of Trump claiming white people built America, Ryan pointed the Examiner to a campaign speech from March 12, 2016.
In an address delivered in Vandalia, Ohio, last year, Trump said, "We cannot let our First Amendment rights be taken away from us, folks. We can't let it happen. We can't let it happen. We have a right to speak. I mean, we are law-abiding people. We are people that work very hard. We are people that have built this country and made this country great."
"We're all together, and we want to get along with everybody. But when they have organized, professionally staged wiseguys, we've got to fight back. We've got to fight back," he added.
Ryan also noted that she tweeted about his remarks at the time. She wrote on March 12, that Trump "says We can't have our first amendment rights taken from us. We are people who built this country and made America great."
There are some additional examples of this sort of language from the Trump 2016 campaign, including a fundraising pitch that referred to "hard working Americans" as those who "built this country." But there do not seem to be clear-cut examples of the GOP nominee stating explicitly that white people made America.
Ryan logged onto Twitter Wednesday morning to defend her assertion that Trump credited white people for building America.
"A question: So what does 'we built this country' mean in front of a predominantly white crowd?" she asked in a tweet. Ryan then logged off, saying in a quick note, "Bye social media today. The trolls are out of there caves and their Archie Bunker huts. Lol lol lol."
She caught some reporters' attention Tuesday afternoon when she questioned White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the president's recent visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington.
"What did the president gain from his tour today?" Ryan asked Spicer. "You talked about where he visited, the exhibits that he visited. Did he also visit [the slavery exhibit]? And the reason why I'm asking this is because when he was candidate Trump, he said things like, you know, 'We made this country,' meaning white America, not necessarily black."
The White House spokesman interjected to ask Ryan about her particular reference.
"I don't know why you would say that. What do you mean – ?" he started to say
Ryan responded, "He said that. I heard him say that."
Spicer wasn't the only one confused by Ryan's references. Mediaite's Alex Griswold wrote Tuesday that he was befuddled by the exchange.
"What on earth is Ryan talking about? When did she hear that?" Griswold wrote. "I searched up and down for any evidence that candidate Trump ever intimated that white America specifically deserved credit for building America, or that he ever said something like 'we made this country' in a context where 'we' obviously referred to white Americans. I came up short."
"My sneaking suspicion is that Ryan might have seen an opinionated take on Trump's comments and mistaken it for news. That is to say, Trump said something generic about how 'we' made America, someone else wrote a snarky tweet or headline about how that obviously only applied to whites, and Ryan saw it," he added. "I certainly don't think there was any malice on her part."
Breitbart News did a separate write-up on Ryan's exchange with Spicer, and, like Griswold, the author appeared to be confused by her references.
But as Ryan told the Examiner, she was referring to at least one major campaign speech from last year.
So there you have it. In case you were wondering what Ryan was talking about yesterday at the White House press briefing, this was it.