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By Ali Vitali

It wasn't quite an apology, but it was close.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer offered sunny salutations and the first question of Wednesday's briefing to veteran correspondent April Ryan, an acknowledgement of sorts that yesterday's exchange, which some critics saw as sexist and patronizing, may have gone too far.

"How are you today?" he asked, smiling.

"I'm fine, how are you?" she replied as the press room chuckled.

"Fantastic."

On Tuesday, Spicer snapped at Ryan, telling her "stop shaking your head" when she asked a question about the administration's image.

He accused the American Urban Radio Networks' correspondent of pushing an agenda, saying she seemed "hell-bent on trying to make sure that whatever image you want to tell about this White House stays."

But on Wednesday, he answered her questions calmly — and for over five minutes.

The initial back-and-forth drew rebuke from several prominent women journalists and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who defended Ryan as "a respected journalist with unrivaled integrity."

"She was patronized and cut off trying to ask a question," Clinton said Tuesday night at a speech in California.

For his part, Spicer told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt he agrees that Ryan is a tough reporter and said he has spirited exchanges with all reporters, regardless of gender.

"We go back and forth all the time. Rather heatedly in fact. I don’t think it takes much of a search to see that we go back and forth on a lot things that are thrown around," Spicer said.