US president Donald Trump has once again placed himself in controversy after he asked a black reporter at a free-wheeling press conference to arrange a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, an organisation representing the black members of the United States Congress.
“Do you want to set up the meeting?” Trump asked April Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. “Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting. Set up the meeting. I would love to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, I think it’s great.”
Trump initially appeared to be unaware of who the group was.
“Are you going to include the CBC, Mr President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda?” he was asked.
“Am I going to include who?” he replied.
When Ryan explained she was referring to the 45-member congressional association, he asked if the reporter could set up a meeting.
“I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?” he asked. “Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
Ryan, taken aback, replied: “I’m just a reporter.”
Trump continued: “Well, then set up the meeting.
“Let’s go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus.
“I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it’s great.”
In response the CBC immediately tweeted that they had written a five-page letter to Trump on January 19, on the eve of his inauguration, suggesting ways to improve the urban environment – but had never heard back.
Trump then told how he had a meeting scheduled with Elijah Cummings, the 20-year veteran representative for Baltimore in the US state of Maryland.
But Trump said he believed Mr Cummings, a Democrat representing a tough district and whose nephew was murdered in gang violence, had been encouraged by Chuck Schumer, Democrat leader, not to attend.
“I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited,” the president said.
“And then he said, well, I can’t move, it might be bad for me politically. I can’t have that meeting.
“I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.
“Every day I walk and say I would like to meet with him because I do want to solve the problem. But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight.
“He was probably told – he was probably told ‘don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics’.”
The incident caused strong reactions online, in which some called it ”offensive”.
A former National Security Adviser of the USA, Susan Rice, tweeted her opinion on the exchange.