By Li Zhou
She says there’s a tape — but she hasn’t heard it.
Omarosa Manigault-Newman — a former White House staffer and contestant on The Apprentice — says that there’s tape of President Donald Trump repeatedly using the n-word, according to a report from the Guardian, which includes excerpts from her new book Unhinged.
In the excerpts, Manigault-Newman says that three sources have told her that Trump used the racial slur during comments he made while filming The Apprentice franchise. Her claim echoes accusations that actor Tom Arnold has previously levied about the president, who he said slung racist insults and obscenities that were captured during outtakes of the reality television show.
She writes the three sources “all told me that President Trump hadn’t just dropped a single N-word bomb. He’d said it multiple times throughout the show’s taping during off-camera outtakes, particularly during the first season of The Apprentice.” Per NBC News, Newman indicates that she hasn’t personally heard Trump use the racist slur or heard him use it on tape.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back against these claims in a statement on Friday, NBC reports. “This book is riddled with lies and false accusations,” Sanders said. “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the president during her time in the administration.”
In the wake of Arnold’s previous allegations, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios and show creator Jeff Burnett — the stewards of Apprentice footage — said there were legal reasons that they could not release tapes from the show. Manigault-Newman has also reportedly recorded her own conversations with Trump in the West Wing.
Omarosa and Trump have a complicated history
As CNN media reporter Brian Stelter has pointed out, there will likely be questions about the credibility of Manigault-Newman’s claims given her seemingly tempestuous history with the White House. While Manigault-Newman styled herself as a close confidant to Trump during her tenure with the administration and even received well wishes from the president when she left, there were myriad reports detailing how she had actually been fired from her position and physically escorted off the premises.
The publication of Manigault-Newman’s tell-all is just the latest development in a long history she has with the president. Manigault-Newman rose to fame as the villain during the debut season of The Apprentice in 2004 and went on to appear in different iterations of the show two more times. In 2016, she became involved with Trump’s presidential campaign and served as its director of African-American outreach, though the campaign fell way short of her stated goal of securing 15 to 20 percent of the African-American vote.
After Trump took the White House, Manigault-Newman was named director of communications in the Office of Public Liaison. As Vox’s Jen Kirby writes, it was not clear what Manigault-Newman’s actual responsibilities included. A BuzzFeed report noted that the president did appear to defer to her on African-American issues and her role as a top aide was seen by some as important for increasing minority representation in the administration.
After Manigault-Newman’s sudden departure, things appeared to sour between her and the administration. “Omarosa was fired three times on The Apprentice and this was the fourth time we let her go,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in February in response to criticisms she vocalized about Trump. “She had limited contact with the president while here. She has no contact now.”
In her book, Manigault-Newman says that she’s heard Trump using other racist language, including epithets aimed at Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway, who has Filipino ancestry and is a frequent Trump critic. After excerpts of the book were made public, George Conway said that Manigault-Newman’s claim was not credible and called it “absurd all around,” in a tweet on Friday.
Manigault-Newman ponders in the book whether Trump is trying to ignite a “race war.”
“My certainty about the N-word tape and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I’d experienced with him, during the last two years in particular,” she writes. “Using the N-word was not just the way he talks but, more disturbing, it was how he thought of me and African Americans as a whole.”