The bad blood between a veteran reporter and a White House communications official has taken a reality-TV show turn.
The official — former “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault, now a top aide to President Trump — said she has a recording of her dispute with journalist April Ryan.
For her part, Ryan said Wednesday that she was never told she was being recorded and is considering suing Manigault for slander.
Manigault and Ryan engaged in a heated exchange steps from the Oval Office last week. A reporter with the American Urban Radio Networks, Ryan said she felt “physically intimidated” by Manigault and that Manigault had told her that Ryan was among a handful of journalists on whom the White House was keeping “dossiers” of negative information.
The encounter was recorded by an unidentified White House media employee, according to Manigault, who said the tape backs up her claim that Ryan’s account is false.
“She came in [to the White House press-staff area] hot,” hurling insults at her, Manigault said. “She came in with an attitude. For her to characterize me as the bully — I’m so glad we have this tape . . . because it’s ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ ” in Ryan’s case, Manigault said.
Ryan said she was not aware that the run-in was being recorded and never consented to it. “I didn’t know she was taping it,” she said. “This is about her trying to smear my name. This is freaking Nixonian.”
Making such a recording is legal under D.C. law; the city has a “one-party consent” law, which makes it legal to record a phone call or conversation if one person in the conversation consents. It is illegal, however, to record both parties if neither has consented.
Manigault, who earned a villainous reputation while a contestant on Trump’s reality shows “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” asserted that White House media staff regularly records interviews between reporters and officials. “We do it all the time,” she said. “When you come into [the press staff’s offices], you’re on the record.”
Several veteran White House reporters said interviews are sometimes recorded by officials but that it was unheard of to do so without a reporter’s prior knowledge.
Fox News White House reporter John Roberts was among a handful of reporters who heard the recording Tuesday. He said via email that he heard a discussion between the two women in which some terse words and accusations were exchanged, but it didn’t amount to a confrontation. He said that some portions of the recording were difficult to hear clearly or understand fully, but he did not hear the word “dossier” mentioned.
Ryan stood by her account and charged that Manigault “selected pieces” of their exchange to play to journalists. “She wants to spin it like it’s a catfight, but she edited that tape,” she said. “You don’t hear her screaming. This is about her smearing me.”
She said Wednesday that she is considering suing Manigault. “My lawyers are looking at several things [including] slander,” she said. “But I am waiting to see what is the right thing to do.”
Manigault and Ryan were formerly friends; Manigault had even asked Ryan last summer to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. But their relationship soured in the fall when Manigault, then working on Trump’s presidential campaign, suggested in emails to Ryan that the journalist was accepting money from Hillary Clinton’s campaign for favorable coverage. Ryan vigorously denied it.
“Protect your legacy!!” Manigault wrote to Ryan in October. “You have worked too hard to have people question your ethics as a journalist.” She cited a story that mentioned the Clinton campaign’s efforts to woo journalists and added, “This story suggests that as a reporter, you are (or were) a paid Clinton surrogate. I pray this is not true! This could be hurtful to your legacy and the integrity of your work.”