She is Donald Trump’s favorite White House reporter – invited back by his press secretary when other journalists had her network removed for refusing to socially distance at his coronavirus briefings.
But a DailyMail.com investigation has uncovered serious questions over One America News (OAN) White House Correspondent Chanel Rion’s background, finances, and how she obtained security clearance to be in the White House.
In fact, DailyMail.com can disclose that Rion changed her last name before applying for White House security clearance last year and that until becoming a correspondent for the conservative network last May, she had no obvious source of income, despite a social media profile filled with designer dresses and vacations in upscale hotels.
The 29-year-old has now flouted the White House Correspondents’ Association repeatedly after it had OAN removed from the rotation of reporters allowed in the briefing room for Rion’s refusal to follow social distancing guidelines.
Her latest appearance was on Wednesday, when once again she turned up at the back of the briefing room, defying the WHCA guidelines, and once again was invited by Trump to ask a question.
It was her third day this week, starting with Monday night, when she boasted to DailyMail.com about a ‘meeting’ with his then-press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who was moved to another job the next day.
No social distancing: The White House Correspondents’ Association removed Chanel Rion’s OAN from the rotation allowing her to be present in the briefing room, but she has repeatedly defied the group and turned up, at the invitation of ex-White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham
Here again: Chanel Rion has repeatedly turned up at the back of White House briefings and been invited by Donald Trump to ask questions
Briefing crasher: Chanel Rion has become notorious for a series of appearances at White House briefings in defiance of social-distancing guidelines
Defiance: Chanel ‘Rion’ has now appeared repeatedly at White House briefings after the White House Correspondents’ Association had OAN removed from the rotation for the limited seats in the briefing room
Briefing-crasher: OAN White House correspondent has endeared herself to Donald Trump – but not to other journalists, having defied social-distancing guidelines repeatedly to turn up at coronavirus briefings and stand at the back, then get invited to ask a question by the president
Hands-on presence: Donald Trump has singled out Chanel ‘Rion’ repeatedly to ask questions and praised her network. But his White House declined to answer how she was issued with a pass as DailyMail.com uncovered significant questions about her background
Trump time: Chanel Rion posed with Ivanka Trump at the launch of pro-Trump figure Charlie Kirk’s book in Ivanka’s father’s Washington D.C. hotel
Earliest Trump picture: Chanel ‘Rion’ posted this image of her with Don Jr. before becoming a correspondent for OAN, boasting about meeting him at his father’s Washington D.C. hotel
Another Trump: Chanel Rion has twice interviewed the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump for OAN and posed with her for pictures
But little else about Rion is so straightforward, starting with her name.
She was born, in April 1990, and named not Chanel Rion but Chanel Nmi Dayn-Ryan. The unusual name was courtesy of one of her father’s multiple identities.
The 72-year-old property developer and lawyer was born Danny Preboth, the son of renowned Goddard, Kansas psychic Allene Cunningham.
But over the years he has used the names Christopher Preboth, Dan Ryan, Danford Nmi Dayn-Ryan, Michael David Ryan, David Michael Ryan, and most recently Dann O Ryan.
WHITE HOUSE REPORTERS PLEAD WITH RION TO STOP
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which put together a rotation system to keep the building’s briefing room from breaking social distancing guidelines, issued a fresh plea to people defying their guidance on Wednesday.
‘If you do not have an assigned seat, please do not attend briefings during this crisis and do not stand in the aisles, doing so defeats the purpose of the measures we have all taken comply with CDC guidelines and puts your colleagues at risk,’ the association emailed its members.
The target could not be clearer: only Chanel Rion has attended briefings and stood in the aisles.
She however tweeted: ‘I’m not “Breaking White House Distancing Guidelines,” I’m the only journalist in the room personally invited by the White House.’
That suggests that her invitation has survived the demise of Stephanie Grisham’s career as press secretary.
Though she has posted about her South Korean mother’s family history, Rion has never mentioned her psychic grandmother, who is said to have foreseen Oprah Winfrey’s success and Patty Hearst’s short imprisonment, and featured in countless TV and radio shows flaunting her supernatural skills.
Neither has Rion mentioned that her father has been accused in multiple lawsuits of making millions defrauding property investors in Texas under many of his different aliases.
Ryan was involved in at least 31 companies sued by dozens of plaintiffs in Harris County, Texas, in the 1990s all alleging that he fraudulently sold them apartments by lying about the extensive repairs required, then forced them into foreclosure and bought back the property at a reduced price to sell to another investor, again for fraudulently inflated prices.
A 1998 lawsuit claimed Ryan defrauded investors out of more than $2 million by selling the same set of dilapidated apartments three times, allegedly lying to the buyers then forcing them into foreclosure and buying it back at rock-bottom prices each time.
San Francisco doctor Paul Lynn paid Ryan $1,795,000 for the Capetown Apartments complex in Harris County, Texas in 1993, but found them in complete disrepair, the lawsuit said.
The legal documents said Ryan foreclosed the property in March the following year, forcing Dr Lynn into bankruptcy.
Ryan then sold it to Robert Moore and his brother Dr. Elwin Moore from Seattle, Washington in November 1994.
The lawsuit claimed the brothers did not know that some of the 164 apartment units had been ‘completely destroyed by fire and were non-existent at the time of the sale’, and repairs would cost $8,000 per apartment rather than the $300 Ryan had told them.
Family: Chanel Rion’s father is Danford Dyan-Ryan or alternatively Dan Ryan, who was born Danny Preboth. Her mother is his second wife, Kim Soon Oak. Both attended her graduation ceremony after studying at Harvard Extension School
Father: Chanel Rion’s father Danford Dyan-Ryan – seen in Hong Kong in the mid-1990s – has been sued repeatedly
Family: Chanel Rion (second left) is seen with (from left) Darlene Sykes, her fiance’s mother; Bob Courtland Sykes, her fiance; Kim Soon Dyan-Ryan, her mother; Danford Dyan-Ryan, her father; a female relative; her fiance’s father Richard Sykes; and her brother Baron Ryan
Family: Chanel Rion posted these images of her mother’s parents, saying that they escaped Japanese oppression and Communism thanks to American interventions
Grandmother: Chanel Rion’s father’s mother was Allene Cunningham, a nationally-renowned radio psychic who died in 2016 aged 94. Rion told DailyMail.com that she never met her paternal grandmother, who was said to have predicted Oprah Winfrey’s success
Ryan told the Moores he could act as their attorney for the property sale, the lawsuit said. They discovered later he was not licensed to practice law in Texas, they claimed in court papers.
When the brothers found out the decrepit state of the apartments, they agreed to swap their ownership for another of Ryan’s apartment complexes, which Ryan then foreclosed in July 1995, leaving the Moores empty-handed, according to the legal documents.
The alleged fraudster then sold Capetown Apartments to a third buyer, Barry Hardy, for $1,795,000 plus $119,000 property taxes – though the real value was only $308,000, the lawsuit said.
Ryan did not respond to requests for comment. In a 13-page statement, Rion told DailyMail.com that her father had been honest in his real estate business and that he had been wrongly accused by ‘malicious lunatics’.
‘Apartments were offered plainly visible and sold ‘as is’ with the express understanding they were ‘renovation projects’ only that would require large and expensive repairs of an indeterminate nature,’ she said, adding that ‘buyers inspected fully, every apartment unit and all parts of every building and signed off that they had.’
‘The untruthful allegations—the ACCUSATIONS were the screamings of vulchers [sic] trying not to pay what they owed—and the consequence of several mortgagors ‘ganging up’ to collaborate and escape payment of their respective million dollar mortgages,’ she said.
Rion stated that she filed to legally change her name from her father’s Dayn-Ryan to Rion at a Massachusetts court last year – the same year she applied for security clearance for her White House press pass.
Rion added that she has used the alternative spelling of her last name since age six and it appeared on documents including her passport.
Though her father now reportedly owns three ranches in Texas, Colorado and Missouri, it is unclear where Ryan’s family lived during his controversial real estate career.
Rion’s fiancé has said in interviews that she ‘did most of her growing up’ in Missouri. But the TV reporter has written on her Facebook that she lived in Seoul, South Korea, in 1995, France in 1996, and Key West, Florida from 1997 age 7 to 2010 age 20.
She has also suggested she was in South Korea in 1996 or 1997.
Harvard time: Chanel Rion spent five years at the Harvard Extension School, 18 months of it distance learning, graduating with an ALB
Glamorous images: Despite no apparent source of income, Chanel Rion – she changed her last name legally from Dyan-Ryan last year – has posed around the country on a series of vacations
Fiance: Chanel Rion met her fiance of four years, Bob Courtland Sykes who also studied at the Harvard Extension School. She says they met at a CIA recruiting event
Veteran: Bob Cortland Sykes spent seven years in the Navy, rising to petty officer first class
Carefully constructed image: Chanel Rion and Bob Courtland Sykes – a former Navy petty officer who uses his middle name – appear frequently on each other’s social media, going back to when both were at Harvard Extension School
Sisters: Chaenl Rion says she worked as Art Director and Principal Illustrator for Cloverstone Publishing, founded by her sister Channing (left)
HARVARD OR HARVARD EXTENSION – HOW TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
Harvard University, established in 1636, is renowned as one of the most prestigious schools in the world, and is fiendishly hard to get into. Undergraduates who make the cut study at Harvard College.
The university also has a sister organization called the Harvard Extension School, founded in 1910, which offers courses taught on Harvard’s campus, often by Harvard professors. But places on an Extension School course are nowhere near as competitive, and the admissions process is far less rigorous.
While Harvard College has an acceptance rate of 4.6%, courses at the Extension School are ‘open to the public, and most require no application’ according to Harvard’s website. The fees, however, are charged at full cost with no waivers or reductions.
Courses at the Extension School can involve ‘distance learning,’ where students study online and do not have to be on campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Undergraduate students at the Extension School who complete their course receive a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (ALB), while students at the more prestigious Harvard College receive a Bachelor of Arts (AB) degree.
The Extension School also offers one-year postgraduate programs, which earn students a Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) – not to be confused with the venerated Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Master of Arts (GSAS AM).
However in a statement to DailyMail.com, Rion said she moved to France with her family in 1997.
And in one 1990s lawsuit where her father was sued by the City of Houston, he claims he stayed in the Texan city apart from a trip abroad ‘between the middle of April 1996 to the middle of August 1996.’
But Rion ended up a far cry from any burnt-out Houston apartments, among the red brick and stone of Harvard University, where she began an International Relations course in 2010.
The bachelors course was with the University’s Extension School, a separate organization to the main college, which offers non-degree programs with far less rigorous or competitive entry requirements.
According to Harvard’s website, students at the Extension School must pay full fees and are not eligible for waivers or reductions.
Rion spent five years at the school, adding a one-year graduate course to her bachelors, and graduated in 2015.
Rion said her course at Harvard was ‘full Harvard University degree’ and ‘90%’ of her classes were ‘taught by Harvard Professors’ – though she stated that she completed about 18 months of the course via distance learning.
‘My Harvard University degree is as full a Harvard University degree as anyone’s and granted with full honors. I earned the degree about five years after my admission through the distance programs and after spending five long years on and off campus,’ she said.
‘I wanted to be schooled with adults, to be free to go and come and travel and to work on my writing projects and not be locked into a suffocating and regimented dormitory box of a life.’
During her course, Rion says she worked as Art Director and Principal Illustrator for Cloverstone Publishing, founded by her sister Channing.
On the firm’s website Channing says it is run from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is also a student at Harvard.
On the trail: Chanel Rion says that she was part of Donald Trump’s campaign in New Hampshire. A senior Republican told DailyMail.com they have no memory of her. She did however post a picture with her sister Channing Rion in front of a Chris Christie campaign sign
Celebration: Chanel Rion and Courtland Sykes were present at a Trump inauguration event
But company records show the publishing house is in fact registered at an address of an Asian food store in Springfield, Missouri, and was dissolved by Missouri state in 2015 for failing to file a registration report.
The only book listed on the publishing company’s website is a semi-autobiographical novel written by the women’s father, using the name ‘Dann O Ryan’.
Their brother, Baron Ryan, also claimed in an interview with the Springfield, Missouri, News-Leader, to have written the novel to gain one of his Eagle Scout badges, though his name does not appear on the book’s cover.
Channing told DailyMail.com that she registered Cloverstone Publishing at the Springfield food store because she was ‘in between apartments’ in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she ran the firm. She said the address was owned by a Korean friend who offered to let her use it to register her business.
Channing said her brother and father wrote together her publishing company’s one book, and distributed it to libraries for free.
Rion lists her employment after graduation as ‘Political Illustrator for The Left Edge’, a blog of her self-published illustrations.
The illustrations, which do not appear to have earned her income, include references to Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory that senior Democrats made cannibalistic sacrifices and trafficked children for sex in the basement of a DC pizzeria, and an image of George Soros as a sinister puppeteer, similar to ones which Jewish groups say are anti-Semitic tropes. She claims to have produced illustrations for ‘President Trump and family.’
She has also claimed for at least the last two years that she is writing a ‘series’ of books for girls which will be ‘available January 1,’ and ‘are being offered as language trainers in grim and dedicated rote English-learning venues including China and South Korea.’
According to her social media, Rion met her fiancé Bob Courtland Sykes during her final year at Harvard, where he was also taking a non-degree course at the Extension School.
Sykes, 39, who now goes by his middle name Courtland, set up a defense consulting company in 2017, but acknowledged in an interview that year that he had no clients.
Yet the couple, who have been engaged since July 2016, posted photos on their Facebook pages of at least 28 trips around the United States from March 2016 to December 2017, showing them water-skiing, driving classic cars, visiting museums and grand houses.
Despite no apparent source of income, their jet-setting lifestyle continued after Sykes declared his candidacy for the US Senate in Missouri in September 2017.
Fiance: Bob Courtland Sykes is a former sailor whose highest-ranking decorations is (top, left) the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He also wears (top, second left) the Navy Good Conduct Medal with star; and (top, second right) the National Defense Service Medal. He also holds a Combat Service Ribbon and two decorations for service in Iraq
Couple: Rion and Sykes are frequently photographed in carefully-choreographed settings. Sykes is holding a 2009 book about British ambassadors to Washington D.C. with JFK on the cover
Korean dress: Chanel Rion has paid tribute to her mother’s Korean heritage. She has claimed to have lived close to the DMZ as well as in a ‘communist’ village in France
Political campaign: While neither Bob Courtland Sykes nor Chanel Rion’s social media shows them campaigning for Donald Trump in 2016, there is ample evidence of his failed Republican primary run for the Missouri Senate seat in 2018
Unsuccessful support: Chanel Rion hit the campaign trail for her fiance Bob Courtland Sykes in 2018. He came in eighth place in the Republican primary with 2.08% of the vote
Gathering support: Courtland Sykes’ campaign for the Republican senate candidacy in Missouri in 2018 was a flop despite his fiancee’s support
Trump-land fixtures: Bob Courtland Sykes posted a picture in December 2017 with one-time White House aide Steve Bannon and David Clarke (second from right), the former Milwaukee County sheriff who was a fixture in Trump circles although in recent months has been less prominent
Doomed campaign: Bob Courtland Sykes posted pictures with Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate who lost amid accusations of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls. Sykes claimed the allegations were ‘planted’ by Mitch McConnell
From 2016, Rion and Sykes’ social media is filled with photographs of dozens of trips across the country, some where they appear to be helping with Republican Party campaigns, and others which appear to be holidays.
However there are no pictures of them playing a role in the Trump campaign, and one senior Republican told DailyMail.com they had no memory of Rion.
In September 2016, a few weeks from the election, the couple posted pictures from a lake house in Missouri, a photo of Sykes in a classic Pontiac Firebird in Ohio, a wedding in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a trip to the Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, and Hot Springs in Arkansas.
They were however at Trump’s inauguration, in between January 2017 trips to Charlottesville, Virginia and Vacherie, Louisiana in January 2017.
The next month Sykes and Rion vacationed in New Orleans, returned to Hot Springs and then appeared at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland’s National Harbor.
In December last year Rion posted pictures at a party in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and pictures of herself in an elegant ball gown and fur coat at The Greenbrier, a luxury resort in West Virginia.
In response to questions from Daily Mail, Rion stated that: ‘Everybody in America wears designer clothing, stays in hotels and may sometimes water ski. I shop for bargains just like everyone else and look as good as I can with the choices I make.’
Sykes has touted his military career working for the Defense Intelligence Agency and eight years as an intelligence specialist in the Navy.
His rank was Petty Officer First Class, and his highest-ranked decoration, the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, was for training 140 Columbians in, among other things, combat swimming, how to use speedboats, small arms firing and close-quarters combat.
Sykes told DailyMail.com he has been awarded the Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon, for active participation in ground or surface combat.
‘I am very proud of my eight and a half years of active military service,’ he said. ‘I am very proud to volunteer my youth to target some of the most hostile elements in some of the most dangerous locations around the world.’
Debut: Chanel Rion made her first broadcast as an OAN correspondent on May 13, 2019, and moved to cover the White House the following month
Access boast: Chanel Rion was invited to a lunch the president traditionally holds with network television anchors on the day of the State of the Union
Holiday time: CHanel Rion spent Christmas Eve at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, meeting Eddie Gallagher, the SEAL he pardoned at the end of a war crimes trial, and Gallagher’s wife Andrea
Boast: Chanel Rion highlighted her Christmas Eve at Mar-a-Lago on her social media, describing it as ‘nights with patriots’
MAGA fixture: Chanel Rion interviewed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and flew with him to Ukraine to investigate his claims against Joe and Hunter Biden during the impeachment of Donald Trump. She says he was due to officiate her now postponed wedding
Sykes said in an online biography he has been on four ‘combat zone’ tours.
The failed Senatorial candidate attracted controversy in January 2018 when he posted a long statement on Facebook accusing feminists of being ‘she devils’.
In the statement, he rejected ‘radical feminism’s crazed definition of modern womanhood’ and wrote that he wants his daughters to be homemakers not ‘career obsessed banshees’ or ‘nailbiting manophobic feminist she devils’.
Referring to his TV-reporter fiancée, he said: ‘I want to come home to a home-cooked dinner at six every night, one that she fixes and one that I expect my daughters to learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives.’
Rion told DailyMail.com that Sykes sometimes cooks for her too, but added: ‘I consider cooking my job even if I have a career and even if crazy feminists think I shouldn’t.’
She said that after a four-year engagement her wedding next month, which she said would have been officiated by Rudy Giuliani – whom she accompanied on a trip to Ukraine last year – had been postponed due to coronavirus.
In 2017 interviews with Missouri media, Sykes admitted that his defense consultancy, Talosorion, did not have any clients.
According to federal contracts databases, the company still does not appear to have had any contracts with any government agency, and now appears to be registered to Sykes’ parents’ modest home in the small town of Hollister, Missouri.
Accused last week of breaking social distancing rules by entering the White House press briefing room after it was full, Rion claimed that the Grisham, now departed as press secretary, had given her personal permission to be there; Grisham confirmed that in court papers.
The White House did not respond to DailyMail.com questions about whether it was aware of her name change when it issued her with a ‘hard pass,’ which allows journalists unrestricted access to the White House.
Despite being banned from the briefing room by the White House Correspondents’ Association who warned she was putting their safety at risk, Rion appeared again on Monday and on Tuesday, flouting the social distancing rules designed to let fewer reporters in the room to prevent infections.
The OAN reporter has become a firm favorite of the president, asking him soft-ball questions on his favorite topics.
In one briefing, when Rion asked Trump if his withdrawal of US forces from Syria was related to a U.S. special forces raid that killed the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the president said: ‘It’s a great question. And you’re doing a great job, by the way. Your network is fantastic. They’re really doing a great job. Please let them know.’