Dr. Chavis - NNPA president/CEO - promised first press interview with President Trump

"(T)he tradition of the Black Press has been to engage whoever is in the White House on behalf of Black America."

Hazel Trice Edney, TriceEdneyWire.com | 1/14/2017, 11:51 a.m.
"(T)he tradition of the Black Press has been to engage whoever is in the White House on behalf of Black ...
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. during a special guest appearance hosted by The New Tri-State Defender at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (Photo: George Tillman Jr.)

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, has been promised the first press interview with Donald Trump after he takes office as President, according to sources who attended a private meeting with the Trump transition team Jan. 4.

Omarosa Manigault

Omarosa Manigault

Omarosa Manigault, recently named assistant to the president and director of communications in the Office of Public Liaison for the Trump Administration, made the promise, the sources said.

Manigault's promise of the interview was disclosed after a representative of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) stressed the importance of black reporters interfacing with the president. Both Chavis and NABJ representatives participated in the closed door meeting at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Northwest DC.

"When NABJ said we need to make sure that somebody black interviews the President first, [Manigault] said, 'Oh no. Ben Chavis and I have already spoken and he's going to be the first interview,'" recounted veteran civil rights leader

Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine, president/CEO of the Transformative Justice Coalition, in an interview this week. Arnwine said Chavis then "acknowledged that that was correct - that they had already been in touch with him about it."

No working press was allowed inside the meeting, described as "off the record" for those in attendance. The meeting, billed as a "listening session" with Manigault and other senior members of the Trump transition team, drew dozens of black leaders representing about 30 mostly non-partisan and non-profit organizations.

Some organizational leaders spoke guardedly after the meeting while others declined comment. Leaving the meeting, Chavis gave no details. He gave a general statement when reached later by telephone.

"2017 marks the 190th year of the Black Press in America. And the tradition of the Black Press has been to engage whoever is in the White House on behalf of Black America," Chavis said.

"There are issues that affect our quality of life and we cannot afford to be excluded from the position and the power that would impact the quality of life of Black people."

Manigault and Trump team members departed after the meeting without making any comments to the media.

If Chavis is granted the interview, it would mark a departure from the Obama treatment of black newspaper reporters. Despite numerous requests, no one-on-one interviews were awarded to NNPA representatives after this reporter interviewed Obama as president-elect on Jan. 19, 2009, the eve of his first inauguration.

However, Obama did grant interviews to black radio talk show hosts Al Sharpton and Joe "The Black Eagle" Madison. Journalist and communications specialist Jeff Johnson also interviewed the president on BET amidst racial unrest following police shootings of black people two years ago.

The question for many is whether Chavis' interview with Trump will reveal what sensitivities Trump may have to African-American issues?

So far, President-elect Trump has spoken of dealing with the high homicide rates in black communities and building the infrastructure in "inner cities." He has said little or nothing in favor of civil rights agendas or of police shootings and abuses of black people.