Congratulations, Omarosa. Your training has served you well.
The former presidential assistant/three-time contestant on “The Apprentice” is on a publicity tour worthy of President Donald Trump himself. In support of her new book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House,” Omarosa Manigault Newman is turning up on the news shows, playing secret recordings of White House conversations and, if his Twitter feed is any indication, driving her former boss to distraction.
It’s unclear how much truth the book really has to reveal, but that barely matters — it has already succeeded in getting the president to tell on himself. In response to Manigault Newman’s prodding, Trump and his representatives have made a public display of this administration’s most glaring flaws. Truly, the apprentice has outdone the master.
On Monday morning, for instance, Manigault Newman shared a recording of Trump responding to news of her 2017 firing by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. The conversation was barely newsworthy. But the president’s response on Twitter revealed his management mind-set in startling clarity. We now know for certain that there is only one qualification needed to work in his administration: a willingness to fawn.
Trump described his former assistant as “vicious” and “not smart,” hated by others in the White House, and constantly missing meetings and work. “When Gen. Kelly came on board he told me she was a loser & nothing but problems.” Still, she was worth retaining — and paying the highest possible salary for a White House staffer — “because she only said GREAT things about me – until she got fired!”
Just to be clear: Trump knew she was venomous and a terrible employee, but she was hired and kept on because she padded his ego. So much for hiring “the best people.” It’s toadying that counts.
And speaking of hiring, there’s the White House’s take on diversity, in bolder relief than ever. On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway was asked to name the most prominent African-American on the West Wing staff, now that Manigault Newman has left. The top counselor to the president bumbled through her answer: “We have Ja’Ron, who’s done a fabulous job, been very involved.” So involved that he doesn’t even work in the West Wing and she can’t remember his last name.
When pressed on what it might signify that not a single West Wing adviser is African-American, Conway continued: “There are plenty of people. … We have a number of different minorities.”
Ah, yes, behold our minorities! Or, as Trump once said, “Look at my African-American over here!”
There’s a difference between tokenism and true representation, and creating the latter takes work. But tokenism is as far as those in this organization have ever thought to go — if they’ve thought about it at all. Research shows that homegrown and bureaucratic organizations are the hardest to diversify, and the Trump administration is a perfect example: a family affair, codified by personal relationships, cemented by scandal and nondisclosure agreements, and far more interested in graft than in service. When it comes to actually letting minority experiences influence policy, the White House remains uninterested, and it’s clearly not even ashamed of the fact.
With that in mind, one could view Trump’s ugliest Omarosa-inspired reveal as almost predictable. In her book and in recordings, Manigault Newman claims that Trump used the n-word while on “The Apprentice” set and that his staff was constantly worried a recording would become public.
Trump’s response? He tweeted that former “Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett “called to say that there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa.” He needed someone else to verify that he did not say the word? (Burnett, for his part, has yet to publicly confirm.) And then, as a sign of his great respect for African-Americans, Trump immediately turned to the same loaded, intelligence-based disparagements that he has made the centerpiece of his insults to African-Americans who dare speak up, and went one further — referring to Managault Newman as a “lowlife” and “that dog.”
The litany of Trump’s racism over the past several years barely bears repeating: the Muslim ban, Mexican”rapists,” “very fine” white supremacists and “shithole countries.” Yet, his over-the-top behavior throughout Manigault Newman’s press tour has increased the believability of this latest n-word accusation, not lessened it. Indeed, it has made every claim against him seem only more true.
Trump seems determined to make Manigault Newman’s book a best-seller. But we don’t need to read it to know he’s unhinged. Manigault Newman has already brought out some of his finest work.
Christina Emba is a Washington Post opinions writer and editor.
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