If nothing else, Omarosa Manigault Newman is entertaining. Dressed like the the freshest deaconess or Pope in all the land, the former assistant to President Trump played on the skills she learned as a pioneering reality television star first for her interview on Meet The Press and then on the TODAY show. There to promote her new book, "Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House," Newman played the role of disillusioned supporter who has finally seen the light after a great “betrayal.”
At several points during the interview, I had the urge to shout, Watch out, Meryl! Omarosa is on your neck, sis!
To hear Manigault Newman tell it, while she acknowledges that she is "complicit" in deceiving the American people about the capabilities of its current president, she claims that her decision to serve in the Trump administration was not an act of self-interest, but a selfless desire to advocate for the Black community. To her, “People are making decisions for us without us,” and thus her position as the only Black person in the room was of grave significance.
Watching, I had to pause for a laugh break.
But now, suddenly, Manigault Newman understands that it doesn’t matter if you’re in the room when the room consists of people who don’t truly see you to begin with. Now, she gets that Trump uses race “to stir up the base.” Indeed, now, she believes that Trump is racist.
One would think a lengthy history of racism in his commentary and business practices might have confirmed Trump's antipathy towards Black people long ago to any Black person breathing and paying attention, but better late than never. Apparently, it took Manigault Newman to listen to some tape in which Trump allegedly says “n*****” to confirm what was obvious to the rest of us. (Though, in the book, she actually says she only heard that such a tape existed; she told Meet The Press anchor Chuck Todd that she finally heard it for herself after who book went to press.) “But when he talks that way, the way he did on this tape, it confirmed that he is truly a racist,” Newman explained in the interview.
Manigault Newman seems to want to remake herself from the woman who was betrayed by a mentor and friend to one who decided to save the nation from the madness she once helped cover up. It’s a lovely a little fable, but I refuse to fall for it. I appreciated her performances with Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie, but they very much felt like performances.
So, whatever, Omarosa: I prefer my fairy tales with singing crabs, like in "The Little Mermaid."
I was also amused by the revelation that Manigault Newman apparently recorded White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in The Situation Room. What kind of reality TV hell has that house become? (And actually, it's more than a bit concerning a recording device can be snuck into such a place.)
That said, she is correct in her assertion that, if she hadn’t recorded Kelly, the media narrative of her setting off White House alarms in an effort to get to Trump would have stuck with her. Kelly wanted to humiliate her — and his treatment of Black women has a curious pattern.
Nevertheless, spare me. I am inclined to agree with writers like Jelani Cobb, who noted in the New Yorker: “Her realization about Trump’s outlook appears to have emerged at some point during her book deal. That’s not a gradual awakening, it’s a glacial, self-interested one.”
She knew who Trump was long ago and she made the choice to work with him anyway. This is the same woman who said at a rally, “When I say ‘Trump train,’ I wanna hear y’all say ‘Choo-choo.’”
Then, they pushed her off of the train and now she wants the resistance to keep her company and the Black community to welcome her back with open arms. No.
Again, Omarosa Manigault Newman is entertaining. I thought she looked amazing in that white ensemble on Sunday — it gave me saved-Christian-who-has-been-wronged chic. I am tickled that she is on Meet The Press and using language like “have receipts” to describe recording Kelly and “a unicorn jumping over rainbows” to describe Sean Spicer talking about Trump. And I give thanks for that tip about ex-staffers being offered $15,000 a month to sign an NDA and cash their checks in silence.
In terms of television, it was excellent. As for her reinvention: Hardy har. Newman thinks “the people who want to judge should read the book first,” but there is no need. She may find Trump to be a “con” but it often takes one to know one — and whether she has clocked this or not, we can see through her just as easily as we do him.
Michael Arceneaux is the author of the book "I Can't Date Jesus" (July 2018, Atria Books).