Trump berated a black journalist, telling her to 'be nice' and not 'threatening' at a coronavirus briefing, but she refused to take the bait

  • PBS NewsHour reporter Yamiche Alcindor confronted President Donald Trump with his own statements during the daily coronavirus taskforce briefing on Sunday as US coronavirus cases rose to nearly 140,000.

  • In response, Trump snapped at Alcindor to "be nice" and not "be threatening."

  • The president continued berating Alcindor as she pressed on and tried to redirect his attention to her question about earlier statements he made to Fox News host Sean Hannity about the shortage in medical equipment as states battle the novel coronavirus.

  • "When journalists get up and ask questions that are so threatening—" Trump began. Alcindor hit back: "I was quoting you directly from your interview with Sean Hannity."

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Yamiche Alcindor, a PBS NewsHour reporter with extensive experience covering the White House, confronted President Donald Trump with his own statements on Sunday and provoked a hostile response that critics said had racist undertones.

Trump warned Alcindor to "be nice" and not "be threatening," but she refused to cave and continued her line of questioning. Praise for her was trending on Twitter right after the exchange.

Alcindor kicked off her questioning by asking Trump about earlier statements he made to Fox News opinion commentator and longtime ally Sean Hannity. Specifically, he suggested to Hannity that some states may not need as much medical equipment as they've requested to fight the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus within the US.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump told Hannity on his program Thursday night. "You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes and they'll have two ventilators. Now all of a sudden they're saying, 'Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'"

Referring to Trump's remarks, Alcindor addressed the president and said, "You've said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don't actually need. You said New York might not need 30,000—"

"I did not say that. I didn't say that," Trump interjected.

"You said it on Sean Hannity's Fox News [show], you said that you might—" Alcindor said.

"Come on, come on," Trump said, cutting her off. "You know, why don't you people act — why don't you act in a little more positive … it's always get you, get you, get you."

Alcindor tried to redirect the president's attention to her question, but he continued, "And you know what, that's why nobody trusts the media anymore."

"My question to you is, how is that going to impact—" Alcindor tried, before Trump again cut her off.

"Excuse me, you didn't hear me," the president said. "That's why you used to work for The Times and now you work for somebody else. Look, let me tell you something. Be nice. Don't be threatening."

Alcindor pressed on, asking Trump how his comments would impact how the federal government fills states' orders for ventilators and masks as they battle the virus, which the World Health Organzation declared a pandemic earlier this month.

"We're producing tremendous numbers of ventilators," Trump insisted. "We're doing a great job on it. We have everybody in the White House working on it. We have —everybody in the country is working on it one way or another."

Then, in what appeared to be an attempt to clarify his remarks to Hannity, Trump claimed that the federal government sent "thousands of generators" to New York but that the state never distributed them.

"I hope they distributed them now," Trump said. "But maybe they didn't need them so badly. But just so you know, we're all you me everybody we're all on the same team. When journalists get up — and you're a journalist, a fine journalist — when journalists get up and ask questions that are so threatening—"

Alcindor hit back, "I was quoting you directly from your interview with Sean Hannity."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that Trump's suggestion was "incorrect and grossly uninformed," and that the ventilators are being stored to prepare for when the state's medical facilities exceed their capacity.

"Of course we didn't" distribute them, Cuomo said. "That's the whole point. The hospitals don't need them yet. The hospitals aren't at their apex. The hospitals have enough ventilators today, but their numbers are going up."

Alcindor won praise and admiration for how she handled her questioning of Trump on Sunday. The hashtags #Yamiche and #WeLoveYamiche began trending on Twitter almost immediately after her exchange with the president.

Alcindor also addressed the moment after the fact.

"President Trump today at the White House said to me: 'Be nice. Don't be threatening,'" she wrote on Twitter. "I'm not the first human being, woman, black person or journalist to be told that while doing a job. My take: Be steady. Stay focused. Remember your purpose. And, always press forward."

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