White House aide Omarosa Manigault’s chilly reception on a panel at a convention for black journalists Friday spiraled into a screaming match following questions about President Donald Trump’s views on police brutality.
Speaking on a panel titled “Black and Blue: Raising Our Sons, Protecting Our Communities” at the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention in New Orleans, Manigault sparred with panel host Ed Gordon, a longtime journalist and host of a news magazine show on Bounce TV.
Gordon pressed Manigault about her role as director of communications for the White House’s Office of Public Liaison and her views on the current state of the criminal justice system. Manigault began by talking about the deaths of her father and brother at the hands of violence in Ohio.
But when asked by Gordon how she “could sit in a White House” while Trump signaled support for police brutality — a nod to Trump’s recent remarks encouraging the police to be rougher when arresting criminal suspects — Manigault accused the host of lecturing her and being “too aggressive.”
“Are you suggesting that I just walk away?” Manigault said.
She continued, “I’m not going to stand here and defend every single word and decision. I still have my story — you’re dismissing my family story.”
Manigault is a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice.” Her role in the White House includes advocating on issues important to African-Americans.
During the lengthy exchange, Manigault threatened multiple times to leave while Gordon insisted, speaking mostly to the audience, that he “did my best to try to make this as civil as possible.”
Manigault side-stepped questions related to her role in the White House and her own views on Trump’s remarks, though ultimately she said she felt his comments about policing had been out of line.
Speaking before officers from Suffolk County Police Department in New York on efforts to combat the gang MS-13, Trump said in July, “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You just see them thrown in — rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,'” referring to officers shielding prisoners’ heads with their hands. “Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head. I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?'”
Police departments across the country rebuked the comments, and the White House later said Trump was joking.
“I believe he was making a joke at the time,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters when asked if Trump had a response to the critiques.
New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones was originally scheduled to host the panel at NABJ but she and a fellow panelist, The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb, pulled out after Manigault’s addition.
Cobb told Page Six he backed out because of issues with the panel overall.
“It was that she was added at the 11th hour and it was unclear whether we would be able to discuss substantive issues regarding the administration and its policing policies,” said Cobb. “Also, the panel was very disorganized, and basic things like format were not clear.”