Some salacious news exploded this weekend when Omarosa, full name Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former reality TV-star who became famous on Donald Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice, and later joined Trump’s campaign and worked in the White House, made claims on Meet the Press that she knows of recordings of President Trump using the “N” word on tape. This is a story I haven’t wanted to touch for a few days since it’s evolving by the minute and sometimes it’s best to let these things play out before jumping on the bandwagon. Well, here we are, on Thursday. It’s time to discuss this Omarosa thing and lay out the facts as we understand them.
Let’s start at the beginning, back on Sunday, and this original report from NBC News about Omarosa’s appearance on Meet the Press:
Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman said Sunday that she has personally heard a tape of President Donald Trump using the N-word during filming for NBC’s “The Apprentice,” a revelation she says “confirmed that he is truly a racist.”
Newman made the charge during an exclusive interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” days before the release on Tuesday of her new book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.” In the book, Newman describes hearing about the tape but not hearing it herself. She said Sunday that she personally listened to it after her book had gone to press.
She said she had “heard for two years that it existed, and once I heard it for myself, it was confirmed, what I feared the most: That Donald Trump is a con and has been masquerading as someone who is actually open to engaging with diverse communities.”
She added: “But when he talks that way, the way he did on this tape, it confirmed that he is truly a racist.”
Newman didn’t specify when exactly the tape was from, but said that it was from Trump’s time hosting the show and spinoffs through early 2015.
Newman described herself as being “complicit” in the White House’s deception of the American people and about its interest in advocating for the black community.
There’s a lot to unpack in that excerpt just by itself. Everything from her claim that the “N-word” tape exists, to her claims that she knows firsthand the President is racist, to her seeming regret about “complicity” with what she says was a “deception” of the American people to elect Donald Trump. Those claims alone will sell books, especially to the President’s detractors and skeptics. But what about the claim that this “N-word” tape exists? That particular story line has now taken on a life of its own.
Omarosa did not claim to have ever heard the recording in question when she wrote the book, but then that story changed also. In the book, she cites sources that did hear it and know of its existence. Well, it’s not hard to go deeper and check into the sources to test the veracity of her claims, and some news outlets did just that.
For what it’s worth, several White House officials deny the tape exists, according to this Fox News article. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean anything since that is the response you’d expect right now.
White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, said she can’t guarantee personally that such a tape doesn’t exist:
Sanders, during a combative press briefing, was asked whether she could personally guarantee that the American people will never hear Trump utter the “N-word” on a recording.
“I can’t guarantee anything,” she responded. “But I can tell you that the President addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I’ve never heard it.”
Trump tweeted out a day earlier that the word is not “in his vocabulary.”
Sanders is, of course, smart not to make such a personal guarantee since there’s no way she can guarantee anything like this about what Donald Trump may or may not have said over the past 15 years.
In response to the denials, Omarosa released a recording which she purports to be a discussion among Trump campaign aides, during the campaign, over how to handle the “N-word” tape if in fact it does exist, report from New York Magazine:
As Omarosa Manigault Newman continues to torment President Trump from the confines of her tell-all book tour, she has conspicuously altered the details of her most explosive claim: that a long-rumored tape of President Trump using the N-word on the set of The Apprentice actually exists. In Unhinged, she writes that her hunt for the tape was the reason for her unceremonious firing in December, but that she had never actually heard the offending recording. Post-publication, she has been telling a very different story.
Omarosa’s very real credibility issues aside, new recordings that the erstwhile Apprentice contestant handed over to CBS may constitute the clearest evidence yet that the mythical tape isn’t merely a figment of her (or Tom Arnold’s) imagination.
During an October 2016 phone conversation that Manigault Newman surreptitiously recorded — as was her wont during her Trump tenure — she speaks about the possibility of the tape’s release with Lynne Patton, who was then an aide to Eric Trump, campaign communications director Jason Miller, and spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.
It’s worth noting that before this recording was released, two of the parties allegedly contained in the recording had claimed that such a conversation didn’t take place, according to the same article:
Just before the audio of the conversation was published overnight on Monday, Pierson told Fox News’ Ed Henry, “That did not happen. Sounds like she is writing a script for a movie.”
And in a statement put out late Monday night, Lynne Patton wrote, “To be clear, at no time did I participate in a conference call with Katrina Pierson advising me, Jason Miller and Omarosa Manigault-Newman that Frank Luntz had heard President Donald J. Trump use a derogatory racial term – a claim that Luntz himself has also denied.”
(Luntz, a Republican pollster, has denied ever hearing the tape, and it’s not clear if he played any role in the conversation in question.)
While Pierson and Patton’s denials seem misleading at best, we’re still a long way off from definitive proof that the N-word tape exists.
Nobody on the 2016 phone call claimed to have actually seen or heard it. Trump has denied ever using the N-word (for what that’s worth), and his advisers are hard at work painting Omarosa as a vindictive, deceitful backstabber — an image she herself burnished on Trump’s reality show all those years ago.
So, as the NY Mag article explains, there is a recording of campaign officials allegedly talking about an alleged recording that may or may not exist, but none of them, at the time of the recording or when they’re being questioned now, seem to know definitively whether it does or does not exist. That seems to be the closest we can get to the actual “N-word” recording, whether it does or doesn’t exist.
The President had ignored Omarosa for a short time, probably on advice from those around him, but he couldn’t hold his fire for very long:
But with the story clearly not going anywhere, the president is responding in ever more brutish fashion. After calling Omarosa “wacky,” “vicious,” and “nasty” on Monday, he labeled her a “dog” on Tuesday morning.
It’s case of “he said/she said” right now and it’s something that will probably never truly be resolved. That is, unless, the “N-word” recording does in fact come to light. Democrats seem to be pleading for the tape, if it exists, to be released, such as this op-ed from Molly Roberts in the Washington Post:
The White House lies regularly, and when it’s not lying it’s at least spinning. We’re suffering whiplash from our collective plunge into a post-truth presidency, and something as stubborn and physical as a tape offers stabilization. A recording reassures Trump critics that they’ve been right all along, and more than that, it inspires the optimistic notion that, up against the sort of evidence that’s hardest to contradict, the rest of the country will finally start to see along with them.
For many Democrats, including Roberts in her article, who says she know’s Trump is a racist and doesn’t need the “N-word” tape to prove it, this will probably be the liberal line if the tape never surfaces. “Sure, the tape would help prove our case, but we don’t need it to prove our case.”
On the conservative side of the spectrum, outlets such as Fox News continue to call Omarosa’s credibility into question:
Omarosa Manigault Newman raked in $179,700 a year at the White House – the top salary for a presidential aide, on the same level as chief of staff, press secretary and national security adviser.
But Manigault Newman’s new book – where she trashes President Trump, accusing him of being racist and mentally unstable – raises questions about what exactly she did at work every day as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.
The book, “Unhinged,” is heavy on score-settling and rehashing of personal feuds but devotes far less text to the specific issues and policy areas she was hired to work on. And those she claims to have worked closely with are suggesting she exaggerated her role in the book.
“I didn’t really interact with her that much,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “She came and she would sit in meetings from time to time. It wasn’t like we were close by any means.”
Since no one has yet proved a tape exists, it’s low-hanging fruit to attack Omarosa’s credibility, and she’s probably fine with that since she’ll sell books either way. In fact, on the first season of The Apprentice in 2004, where Omarosa first met Donald Trump, she started played the reality show “villain,” a role she embraced and went on to play in other shows, like Big Brother, for example. Omarosa enjoys being the villain, it has become her gravy train for publicity and notoriety.
In the end, whether the “N-word” tape exists or doesn’t exist, and regardless of whether Omarosa loses in civil court over violating a non-disclosure agreement, she has accomplished what she wanted with the publishing of her book and getting her payday.
For the Trump White House, it’s just another week filled with new controversies and media fires to put out.