Today’s White House press conference about the coronavirus was memorable even by the current administration’s standards. But the moment President Donald Trump called on Chanel Rion from the far-right network OANN stood out above them all.
For her first question, Rion lobbed a softball: “Do you consider the term ‘Chinese food’ racist?”
Trump has been accused of racism for repeatedly referring to coronavirus as “Chinese virus” or “China virus.” OANN’s own polling found that 45 percent think it’s racist.
Trump kicked off his press conference today by using the phrase.
The question was a hit with her subject. “No, I don’t think it’s racist,” Trump said, obviously pleased.
She followed up.
“Major left-wing news media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese communist party narratives, and they’re claiming you’re a racist for making these claims about Chinese virus,” she began.
“Is it alarming that major media players, just to oppose you, are consistently siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic radicals, and Latin gangs and cartels and they work right here at the White House with direct access to you and your team?”
Most presidents would’ve pushed back against the idea that the media sides with foreign countries and criminal organizations, and shouldn’t be trusted within their vicinity.
Trump isn’t most presidents.
Instead, he rambled a bit about how he’s treated in the press, congratulated his administration, and complained some more about the media. The soliloquy ended with Trump claiming that no one contacts him for stories “ever—that I know of—at least, nobody tells me.”
His response didn’t much matter; people were fixated on Rion’s question. The moment went viral. OANN and #WhiteHouseBriefing trended on Twitter.
People, including many members of the media, had a lot of opinions.
Some noted that Rion hosted a special that falsely implied that leading immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci funded the creation of coronavirus as part of a plot to destroy the Trump economy, as Media Matters recently reported.
Others were simply amused that anyone would refer to an OANN correspondent as a “reporter.”
“’Reporter’ for OANN complaining about ‘state propaganda.'” said journalist Andrew Feinberg. “That’s rich.”
“This question is straight propaganda,” tweeted Molly Jong-Fast of the Daily Beast.
The criticisms from Rion’s sort-of colleagues weren’t confined to social media. She later tweeted a picture of OANN’s workspace at the White Hous.
On the desk, there was a sheet of paper on which someone had printed, “Do you think your question was helpful in halting the spread of coronavirus?”
“Welcome to the basement,” Rion captioned the tweet.