Trump gets off to tense start with CBC invite

February 21, 2017 GMT

Following a bizarre exchange with American Urban Radio Networks White House Correspondent April Ryan, the Congressional Black Caucus is in talks with President Donald Trump to set up a meeting.

Trump asked, Ryan, a veteran Black journalist, if she could set up a meeting with him and the CBC, as if Ryan was an employee of the White House or a special assistant to the CBC. Ryan responded by saying, “I’m a journalist.”

The confusing exchange was one of several moments at an unscheduled press conference that Trump held at the White House on Feb. 16.

“Since the White House has reached out in an appropriate manner to request a meeting with the caucus, I am now in discussions with them about setting one up,” the Congressional Black Caucus chairman, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), said in a statement after the press conference.

(A meeting between Trump and CBC is still in the works, according to news outlets.)

During an interview on MSNBC on Feb. 17, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said that “Steve Bannon cannot be in the room,” when the CBC meets with Trump. “He’s a stone cold racist,” Jeffries said.

Bannon is currently the president’s chief strategist and served as a high-ranking executive at Breitbart News, an online publication known for trafficking in right-wing, alternative news that Bannon himself defined as “the platform for the alt-right.”

The term “alt-right” is increasingly used to describe a new and emerging movement of racists and white supremacists.

Richmond said the following in response to Trump’s comments regarding a meeting with the Black Caucus:

“President Trump has been in office for almost a month and the Congressional Black Caucus — which at a historic 49 members is almost a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus and represents millions of African Americans — did not hear from the White House until we introduced ourselves on Twitter after the White House press conference today.”

The statement continued: “For whatever reason, the letter the Congressional Black Caucus sent to then President-elect Trump and incoming White House officials on January 19 was not enough to get their attention. As the letter explained, President Trump’s ‘New Deal for Black America’ is ill-informed and insufficient and he would be wise to tap into the decades of expertise held by the Congressional Black Caucus when it comes to addressing issues that affect African Americans.”

The CBC, which is now at its largest membership in history, traditionally requests a meeting with a new president after the inauguration. Ironically, some of the meetings the CBC had with President Obama, specifically on the topics of jobs and the challenges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, had tense moments.

Obama did not meet with the CBC during his first year in office. Meetings between Obama and the CBC were scarce even though most of the members and the president were members of the same party.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African-American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. She can be reached at LBurke007@gmail.com or Twitter at @LVBurke.