Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book, filled with unsubstantiated allegations and implausible claims — she did not know President Trump was a racist before she arrived at the White House? — would not, I would submit, normally constitute serious news. Putting someone with low credibility on air to sell books does a disservice to Americans and lowers the already low atmosphere of public debate. Let her sell her books on “The View” or on late-night comedy shows. However, when she has tapes allegedly made within the confines of the White House, and worse, the Situation Room, that is news because it reflects the abject incompetence and sloppiness in the administration, both of which endanger the country.
In that respect, Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” did the country a service in revealing the cavalier and unprofessional conduct inside the West Wing:
CHUCK TODD: Look I’m going to play — I want to play this tape but I’m curious, how is it — you recorded the Chief of Staff —
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Absolutely.
CHUCK TODD: The White House Chief of Staff in the Situation Room —
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Yes, yes.
CHUCK TODD: And you’re prepared in a moment’s notice to record him? Or were you planning to record him the minute you found out you had this meeting?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Well no, first of all, like I said I’m the only African American there. When you walk into a meeting with John Kelly who’s refused to meet with me the whole time he’s there, in the Situation Room, Chuck. We’re not going in there to talk about, you know, parking or scheduling issues.
CHUCK TODD: How often did you tape people?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: Wait, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD: I know, how often did you tape people?
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: As you’ll see in “Unhinged,” I protected myself because this is a White House where everybody lies. The president lies to the American people. Sarah Huckabee stands in front of the country and lies every single day. You have to have your own back because otherwise you’ll look back and you’ll see 17 knives in your back.
CHUCK TODD: Do you know how disloyal it looks, though, that you taped people —
OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN: That’s not disloyalty.
Actually, it’s dangerous and reprehensible — and yet this White House invited her and scores of other irresponsible and unqualified people in and, apparently, no one picked up on the fact she was compromising security by taping top officials. Now the White House needs to explains a whole bunch of things, starting with how she apparently managed to get a taping device into the Situation Room. (It’s fair to assume the White House has no idea what she taped and therefore is in the peculiar position of lacking access to basic information to assess which, if any, security rules she broke and whether legitimately classified material has been compromised.)
“The whole thing raises questions about this White House’s ability to handle security, and it highlights their dysfunctional personnel situation,” says former head of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub. “It’s weird that [John] Kelly would take her into a secure facility just to tell her he’s firing her. Given that she’s only known as a reality TV star, it’s also weird that they hired her in the first place.”
The Omarosa story reminds us of the illegitimate measures the White House takes to silence employees. Attempting to muzzle employees and deny them their First Amendment rights as a condition of employment may be illegal; it is certainly illegitimate, yet another attempt to suppress facts and to treat employees of the taxpayers as Trump’s personal employees. These people work for us, the American people.
It would be a mistake to take Omarosa’s words (written or verbal) seriously. Indeed, this only trivializes the real concerns about the president’s fitness for office and the overall competence of the White House. Taking Omarosa’s accounts seriously in order to answer those inquiries would be foolish. She, however, did something that is news: surreptitiously tape high-level officials. The chaotic, unprofessional operation of the administration, hardly new but surely amplified by Omarosa, certainly is newsworthy. These are stories deserving of mainstream media coverage.