7 Moments Illustrating The Unsung Heroism Of Black Journalists
We want to be like them when we grow up!
President Donald Trump has spent much of his presidency taking his fury out on media figures, particularly those of color. He's had several tense encounters with journalists.
"The most powerful man in the free world is verbally abusing journalists," said NABJ President Sarah Glover in an article by NABJ News that condemned Trump's behavior. "The past two years have been filled with assaults on the media and Donald Trump's comments this week have reached an all-time low with attacks on three Black female journalists. His dismissive comments toward journalists April Ryan, Abby Phillip and Yamiche Alcindor are appalling, irresponsible and should be denounced."
To honor the contribution of Black journalists everywhere, here are a few moments from Black media figures that made us proud.
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1. April Ryan's Multiple Showdowns With The Trump Administration
The incident at last week's press conference wasn't the first time Ryan was challenged by the toddler in chief and his band of minions. In February 2017, Trump flippantly asked Ryan if she could set up a meeting for him with the Congressional Black Caucus, posing the rhetorical question, "Are they friends of yours?"
About a month later, former press secretary Sean Spicer became visibly irate, annoyed and defensive when Ryan asked a reasonable question regarding the current administration’s connection to Russia. He then berated her for shaking her head in response to his irrational behavior.
YouTube | CNN
“The journalists covering Trump’s presidency are professionals, and I’m confident that all of us, including the African American women covering this White House, will continue to do our jobs no matter how we’re treated by President Trump,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
2. Don Lemon's Comments On Who Actually Poses A Terroristic Threat To The U.S.: White Men
If we’d made this list a few years ago, Don Lemon probably wouldn't have been included. Prior to Trump’s presidency, Lemon had been criticized for his tone deafness on several occasions.
Many Black folks gave up on the CNN news anchor after he defended Bill O’Reilly’s critiques of the Black community. Furthermore, while covering the unrest in Ferguson back in 2014, Lemon mentioned the “smell of marijuana in the air”; a highly generalized comment with racially charged implications. He also even victim-blamed one Bill Cosby’s accusers.
YouTube | RippDemUp TV
Since Trump has taken office, Lemon has undergone an ideological transformation. Not only did he get into a Twitter fight with Bill O’Reilly, but he's been an unrelenting critic of 45’s administration and white supremacy, despite receiving death threats.
"The biggest terror threat in this country is white men," Lemon said during an October 31 broadcast of CNN.
Although these comments were met with instant backlash, he did not backtracking on his statement. Rather, Lemon doubled-down on his point and even provided receipts.
YouTube | CNN
"I said that the biggest terror threat in this country comes from radicals on the far right, primarily white men. That angered some people. But let’s put emotion aside and look at the cold hard facts. The evidence is overwhelming,” he said in a follow-up broadcast.
3. Tamron Hall Essentially Telling Those Who Want Her Back On NBC That She's Good Without The Network
We were all disappointed when Tamron Hall left NBC, after the network dissed her to give Megyn Kelly a show. While Kelly ruined her career at NBC after making ignorant comments about blackface, Hall seems to be living her best life.
I do!! I do!! See my pinned tweet about my syndicated talk show. Oh and raising money for @SafeHorizon Tamron 💜Renate fund! Oh and taping Season 6 of #deadlinecrime and oh “livin’ my best life” 👀👀👀 I hope that’s enough 😉 https://t.co/s5YGdB5sjf— Tamron Hall (@tamronhall) October 25, 2018
She doesn't plan on returning to her old stomping grounds any time soon. Instead, Hall is focused on hosting Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall on Investigation Discovery, and even has an upcoming talk show in the works. Additionally, she's dedicated to growing The Tamron Hart Renate Fund, a project she started to honor her sister Renate, who was murdered during a domestic violence dispute. According to reports from People, she recently opened an online shop to raise money for the cause.
Hall isn’t afraid of calling out white foolishness, either. In 2012, after asking Tim Carney a question about Mitt Romney, Hall had to check him on the snarky, rude nature of his response.
“What you’re doing here is a typical media trick. You hype up a story, and then you justify the second-day coverage of the story by saying, 'Oh, well people are talking about it. Here's how Romney responded to it!' No. Let's move on to substantive issues,” Carney said.
That's when Hall went in.
YouTube | TPM TV
“You’re not gonna come on and insult me. You’re not gonna come on and insult the network when you knew what you were going to talk about. Done,” she concluded.
4. Demetria Obilor Checking Those Who Have Criticized Her Curves And Curls
Texas traffic reporter Demetria Obilor made headlines last year when a ill-mannered viewer took to Facebook to disparage Obilor's on-air attire and figure.
“Her name is Demetria Obilor & she’s a size 16/18 woman in a size 6 dress and she looks ridiculous,” the woman wrote. “I understand that when I watch Channel 8 I’m going to get biased reporting and political correctness, but clearly they have taken leave of their senses. I’m not going to watch Channel 8 anymore,” the now-deleted post reportedly stated.
Obilor’s curly hair has also been a target of scorn.
Here's one of the racist, hateful emails I've received for rocking my natural hair on TV. pic.twitter.com/oA8L6gYCyw— Demetria Obilor (@DemetriaObilor) May 25, 2017
“I don’t believe hair like that can be cleaned properly, so every time I see you on TV, I fast forward through your segment,” a viewer wrote in an email.
Instead of conforming to conservative standards, Obilor spoke up.
“I shouldn’t have to wear a potato sack to make you feel comfortable,” she wrote in an op-ed for Elle. “I've heard people say, ‘Well, you’re in Texas now. We’re more conservative.’ So you’re telling me that every time I travel to a different state, I have to assimilate to its cultural norms and values in order to be accepted? That’s not what America stands for. America is supposed to be a melting pot based on freedom from religious persecution and cultural persecution. Don’t tell me I have to assimilate.”
Obilor’s outspokenness has made her a role model, a position she cherishes. In February, she invited Karsyn, a 4-year-old fan, to help her with the traffic report.
Meet Karsyn, my 4-year-old mini me 👯♀️ She was watching the news and said, “Mommy... look! My hair is like Demetria’s from TV!” So, we brought this beautiful, confident girl 💁🏾♀️ and her family on the show to talk natural hair, representation & to just have fun! 💕 pic.twitter.com/vOdtFb1s7p— Demetria Obilor (@DemetriaObilor) February 15, 2018
"Every morning she sees you. And when her hair is big, she says, 'Oh, I look just like Miss Demetria!'" Karsyn’s mother told Obilor. "Representation in our family and in society in general is so important for us. I want her to see other people in the media that look just like her, and for her to just rock it and be proud and embrace it."
"It's a beautiful thing. I remember, growing up, for me, I didn't see any news anchors with curly hair or natural hair," Obilor responded.
5. Al Roker Getting Megyn Kelly's Blackface-Defending Self In Check
Today Show weatherman Al Roker did not mince words when he slammed Kelly’s blackface comments in late October.
"Look, the fact is, while she apologized to the staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country. Because this is a history going back to the 1830s minstrel shows to demean and denigrate a race — it wasn't right," Roker said, according to BuzzFeed News reports.
A bunch of misguided racists tried to come for him when he dressed up as Back to the Future character Doc Brown, but Roker was ready.
I’m going to say this one last time, but the folks who get it, understand and the ones who DON’T, won’t. I can be Doc Brown, and I wear the outfit and wig and not change my skin color if you’re white , you can be President Obama if you want. Just don’t color your skin!— Al Roker (@alroker) October 31, 2018
6. Jericka Duncan Ousting A Pervy, Old, White Network Exec
CBS News national correspondent Jericka Duncan epitomized courage when she shared threatening text messages she received from 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager after she contacted him about sexual misconduct allegations in September.
"If you repeat these false accusations without any of your own reporting to back them up, you will be responsible for harming me. Be careful,” he wrote, according toThe Hollywood Reporter. “There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me, and if you pass on these damaging claims without your own reporting to back them up that will become a serious problem."
Duncan took the messages as a threat, and her revelation led to Fager’s firing. She later admitted she was shocked by his response, but she had to do her job.
YouTube | CBS This Morning
"The fundamentals of reporting include asking questions of those we cover, and that's exactly what we were doing,” she said during a broadcast ofCBS This Morning.
7. Literally All Of Jemele Hill's Tweets
Jemele Hill’s career was threatened after a series of controversial tweets rattled her bosses at ESPN.
Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) September 11, 2017
Don't ask Dak, Dez & other Cowboys players to protest. A more powerful statement is if you stop watching and buying their merchandise.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 9, 2017
She eventually apologized for the tweets, but doesn't have any regrets about being honest.
“I still stand by what I said,” Hill said when she later appeared onThe View. “I don’t think that his supporters are white supremacists. What I would say, though, is that they have the privilege, the benefit of privilege, to be able to distance and disassociate themselves from certain issues.”
After receiving $5 million payout from ESPN, Hill landed at The Atlantic. She believes her departure was inevitable, since the network was trying to present itself as apolitical.
“Looking at it from their viewpoint, of course, it would be easier not having me around. I don’t even take it personally. But the truth of the matter is that part of the reason they have been swimming endlessly in this narrative that they’re too political is because of me,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
However, the Detroit native is pleased to have regained her freedom.
“So much has happened in the last year that I felt like this is as appropriate a time as ever to spread my wings in different ways that I hadn’t really thought of before, or that I knew were possible.”
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