The ongoing drama at the White House is the epitome of “political theater.” And it seems to be the gift that keeps on giving to a public and media with an insatiable appetite for the onslaught of egomaniacal behavior from the current leader of the free world.
Omarosa Manigault Newman has borne witness—and even contributed, admittedly—to the circus-like atmosphere of D.C.’s political scene. The once poverty-stricken Ohioan made her bones as a reality TV vixen and later made unorthodox history in the White House as an assistant to her now-former mentor, President Donald Trump. But as the treacherous terrain of politics would play out, the former The Apprentice standout—and one of the few African Americans in the White House administrative ranks—found herself on the outside looking in when she was fired (or resigned) in December 2017, a year after the most controversial and racially charged president of the United States shocked the world.
When news hit that the reality TV diva would release Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House—a page-turning expose/confessional/autobiography, many naysayers discounted the tome. But then Newman, 44, backed up her claims with audio of conversations she secretly recorded. And if that wasn’t enough, the book debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-sellers list.
Now, in the aftermath of scaling the heights of the literary world with Unhinged, Manigault Newman opens up to The Root about her real-time thoughts on Donald Trump, attending “the cookout” that black people in social media constantly talk about and a possible future in politics.
The Root: A month and a half later, Unhinged has sold extremely well. How does that accomplishment make you feel? Is it a symbol of validation?
Omarosa Manigault Newman: Certainly. Two weeks at No. 1 on the New York Times best-sellers list and five total weeks on the list is a huge accomplishment. It’s humbling that so many people were willing to hear me out. They were interested in knowing the truth. It’s a symbol of people seeking information so that they can make informed decisions about what is truly happening at the highest levels of government.
TR: What are the tough parts of being in the spotlight, the stuff we don’t see? We all heard you say how President Trump sicced his lawyers on you. Do you think you’re in any danger, especially since saying he was trying to incite a race war? Is it a real possibility?
OMN: Yes I am in the middle of a legal battle with Trump and his lawyers, who are working every day to silence me. They also sent notice that they intend to sue my publisher. It is going to be a lengthy and expensive battle, but certainly a battle I intend to win.
TR: Some white people have grown comfortable with calling the police on black people for doing everything from sitting in Starbucks and selling lemonade to moving out of Airbnbs and running for political office. Do you think Trump has helped cause these racially charged incidents?
OMN: There is no question that he has emboldened a dark element of our society who have found fertile ground to spread hate and division.
TR: Speaking of race, how have reactions been with white people you’ve encountered since you exited the White House and wrote the book?
OMN: My encounters across the human race, black or white, have been overwhelmingly positive. People who have read Unhinged have positive and encouraging reactions when they meet me. The people who have made judgments about my life strictly from reading headlines and have not read the book are the ones who tend to remain misinformed about my life.
TR: And what about “the blacks”? Now you know there’s been so much scuttlebutt among the community since you’ve aligned yourself with Trump politically. Clearly there are some detractors, but overall, what have your feelings been about black people now that you’re out of the White House and the book is out?
OMN: First and foremost African Americans are not a monolithic. Everyone does not think and react the same. African Americans are diverse independent thinkers who refuse to be a part of groupthink.
I have been encouraged by the response I have received from so many across the spectrum from community groups, book clubs, churches, civic organizations and schools. The people who are critical have always been critics. Since 2004 when The Apprentice first aired, I’ve had both fans and critics. It comes with the territory. Back then, we had 18 to 20 million viewers who were all very engaged and opinionated. You can’t be thin-skinned in entrainment or politics. I’ve been in politics for 20 years and entertainment for 15 years. I don’t spend a whole lot of my time worrying about what people think of me. It’s impossible to please everyone.
TR: You seemed to have bounced back with some of your detractors—but of course not all of them. Some black folks still have a visceral reaction to you and your success. We keep hearing folks talk about a proverbial “cookout” that you may not be invited to. What’s your reaction to that?
OMN: In 2018, which is one of the most important midterm elections years of our lifetime, I encourage us to be focused on organizing voter-registration drives and get-out-the-vote rallies versus cookouts. The social events I attend and help to organize are about social activism and affecting change, not a gathering to just “hang out.”
There is way too much on the line for us to lose focus of what is really important right now. That’s just where I am right now in my life.
TR: Your husband, Pastor John Allen Newman, is reportedly recognized as a registered Democrat who helped campaign for Hillary Clinton. What does he make of all the controversy surrounding you and your exit from the White House? Has it affected his church in any way?
OMN: My husband is an amazing husband, community activist and faith leader. Yes, he is very politically active in Florida. We don’t bring politics or division into our church. We remain focused on kingdom building and saving souls.
TR: What has been the most surprising reaction you’ve gotten about the book from anyone?
OMN: There have been so many surprising things that have happened in terms of the book. First of all, making the best-sellers’ lists around the world, and all of the amazing reviews and comments that flood my personal website [omarosa.com] are amazing. I was surprised to see Bette Midler tweeting extensively about the book. Going back on The View was fun with Whoopi [Goldberg] and Joy [Behar] and seeing their reactions and also just seeing how many people have been inspired to get involved in politics after reading Unhinged.
OMN: Some of the memes are truly hilarious and crack me up. It’s important to have a sense of humor. But on a more serious note, there were so many lies told about my departure from the White House. I’m grateful that I protected myself [or] otherwise people would have still believed the false reporting that I was dramatically dragged out kicking and screaming out of the White House. Which, because of the tapes we now know is not true. I’m glad I had my whole final meeting documented, from start to finish, because the truth still matters and people have made up so many lies for their own gain.
TR: How do you feel about the dissolution of your friendship with April Ryan? In your own words, what happened between you two? Do you think you’ll ever be able to reconcile?
OMN: When a 20-year-friendship ends it usually for a serious reason. In our case, she let the Trump administration use her to write a completely false story about my departure from the White House last December. And if I did not have the full meeting from start to finish on tape she may have stood by her fake reports. It’s a serious blemish for her as a reporter. I feel bad that they exploited her in that way. And I have truly moved on. I wish her only the best.
TR: After experiencing and exposing the muddy waters of the political landscape, is there still a place for you? Stranger things have happened, but can you ever see yourself running for political office?
OMN: I ran for office several years ago. It was an amazing experience. I would never rule it out. I have 20 years of political experience and if I can contribute what I know to help improve lives then I certainly will.
TR: Some in the mainstream media considered you being on a “scorched earth” campaign against Donald Trump. After all is said and done, what’s the end game? Where do you go from here?
OMN: I would like to see No. 45 impeached from office for all of his alleged crimes and corruption in the White House.
TR: Do you think your association with Donald Trump was worth it all? Some equated it with gaining the whole world for the price of your soul. Tell me about any regrets.
OMN: I am an open book. I have no problem sharing what I have been through. I share all of my regrets and lessons in the book. It’s important to have the full context of how I came to those realizations.
TR: If Trump doesn’t continue as POTUS—for whatever reason—do you think America will be in a more grave state than it is now with his successor in the Oval Office?
OMN: Unfortunately, [Vice President Mike] Pence is just as bad or worse than Trump in my opinion. We just have to stay prayed up during this season.
TR: Historically, you will have a place in the annals of not only pop culture but also political history. How would you like to be remembered, or what do you want to be remembered as?
OMN: I think I am too young to start thinking about my legacy. Especially since I am in the midst of the most important season of my life. I will let God determine my fate, and hopefully, when it’s all done and said, He will say well done, thy good and faithful servant.