The significance of that standing ovation for April Ryan at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

OPINION: It was not only in recognition of her 25 years as a correspondent but for her unwavering devotion to speaking truth to power, even while suffering attacks from the MAGA crowd during the Trump years.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

When Gayle King mentioned April Ryan’s name, the entire White House Correspondents’ Dinner crowd rose in a spontaneous standing ovation for Ryan. It was a powerful and touching moment. In a room filled mostly with media figures, the 2,600 people in attendance stood to show their immense respect for their colleague and all she accomplished over 25 years as a White House correspondent. Ryan, theGrio’s White House correspondent and D.C. bureau chief, is the longest-serving Black female reporter covering the White House beat and has posed questions to five different administrations. In three years, she will become the longest-serving Black White House correspondent. When the White House Correspondents’ Dinner crowd stood and applauded, they did so in recognition of her incredible length of service and much more.

Ryan is a journalist of the highest quality—a person of integrity and precision who has never been afraid to ask the important questions. She embodies the journalistic imperative to speak truth to power and hold leaders accountable. And she is a journalist who’s rooted in the needs of her community—she asks questions and gets answers that Black people need. She is our representative in the White House press corps. She’s proud to be a Black journalist—she’s not a journalist who happens to be Black. But at the same time, she’s a well-rounded journalist who, when needed, will ask about issues that have nothing to do with the Black community. That breadth of intellectual curiosity and depth of loyalty to her people makes her special. The journalists at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner stood because they recognized that. But wait, there’s an even deeper level.

Pete Buttigieg, Susan Rice, April Ryan and Byron Allen
From left: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice, theGrio White House correspondent April Ryan and Allen Media Group CEO Byron Allen. (Photo: Purple PPL Media)

The journalists stood and applauded for no one that night but Ryan, and I think part of why she got that special honor is because her colleagues know some of what she’s had to overcome over the past few years. The Trump years were hard on Ryan—she had to deal with the President’s racism toward her and attacks from his underlings. She also had to weather the storm of Trump loyalists. Their attacks and death threats led to her moving her family to a new home in a new area and also to her hiring security. She was scared and stressed, yet she was resolute—she never let that white noise stop her from doing her job. She continued showing up and asking the questions that needed to be asked. The Trump era took a toll on her, but you’d never know it from the quality of her work throughout that period. I’m sure that’s part of why the journalists stood for her—they know she’s been through hell in recent years, yet she’s still here, unmoved by everything the MAGA world threw at her.

Ryan is a journalistic inspiration to me personally, and all the political journalists I know hold her name in high regard. We respect her both for the way she does her job and for the person she is away from the job when we’re just chatting in the green room or the hallways. She’s humble, funny and a downhome sister you can just laugh with. She’s always good company. But when a White House press briefing is in session, she’s there with her verbal knives, ready to ask a great question. Ryan is the sort of journalist and person we all strive to be. I think when the entire political press corps stood and applauded her, they were saying April, you’re an extraordinary person and a credit to our profession. Not a credit to your race but to our profession. We’re proud to have a person like you be a journalist. On a night filled with giving out awards, that was one of the greatest awards they could ever give.


Touré hosts the podcast “Touré Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!