Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Marigault Newman, Gallery Books 2018

Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House by April Ryan, Rowland and Whitfield, Lanham, MD 2018.

There two books present the perspective of two very different African American females. Omarosa Manigault Newman, better known simply as Omarosa, worked closely within the Trump campaign and administration. April Ryan has been a White House correspondent for the American Radio Urban Network since the Clinton Administration.

Omarosa had a long-standing relationship with President Trump, since appearing on the reality TV show The Apprentice in 2004.  She went on to become  the Director of African-American Outreach during the Trump campaign of 2016. In early 2017 she was named as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison. She left that job under duress and bizarre circumstances in December 2017.

In interviews promoting her book in mid-2018, Omarosa revealed the existence of tapes made of her being fired by John Kelly, Chief of Staff in the Situation Room. These tapes were considered by many to be a breach of security.  This is just one example of how some of those leaving the Trump Administration were fired or forced to resign in ridiculing ways, often accompanied by press releases or non-Presidential Tweets publicly insulting to the individual in question. 

“Unhinged” focuses largely on her relationship to President Trump and the inner workings and organization of the the Trump Campaign and  Administration. Many Black Americans could not understand her support of Trump. An invitation to the Congressional Black Caucus to visit the White House was declined, partly due to her signing the invitation as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault” which some members of the CBC objected to as inappropriate using the term as a self promotion of her importance. 

Omarosa says that she declined the offer of a senior position in the Trump re-election campaign for $15,000 per month including a very restrictive non-disclosure agreement on her relationship with Trump and her work at the White House.

In the book, Omarosa describes the angst she had in supporting President Trump, a position that affected family, personal and professional relationships with other African Americans. In the book she acknowledges her view of Trump as a racist. A question that many of her friends and even much of the public had is what took her so long to come to this conclusion? 

This book does have inside information on the nature of the Trump White House, his anger, unpredictability and insults, all major factors in its record number of changes in personnel. Many, however, view this book as opportunism. While that may be true to some extent, it is none-the-less a well written and interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Trump Administration. 

A different perspective is presented by veteran journalist April Ryan. She has been in the White House press pool since the Clinton Administration.  Ryan often asks pointed questions on policies of health care, education, and voting laws and how these affect Africans Americans. The frequent lies, along with personal and institutionally insulting responses by President Trump and his Press Secretaries is unprecedented in her two decades of working at the White House. 

At times, April Ryan has inadvertently became part of the story. One example is when she asked if the President had any plans to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). He then suggested to her that some of them were “her friends,” and why didn’t she set up an appointment with them.  This was interpreted by many as an inappropriate, insulting and racist answer to a legitimate question. 

The President often turns tough questions around, demeaning the organizations they represent as “fake news,” with responses that are often personally insulting to reporters doing their job as journalists.  When applied to questions from African American and woman reporters, this is perceived by many as racist and misogynist. On January 12, 2018, Ryan felt she had to ask the President if he was a racist.  This was shortly after the widely reported comment the President made about not wanting immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, preferring immigrants from countries like Norway. The President heard her question, but did not answer it directly.

Ryan and Omarosa were at one time fairly close friends. As Omarosa continued for quite some time to support the President and encourage other African Americans to support him as well, their friendship withered and changed to animosity. This relationship is set out in great detail in Under Fire, though I don’t recall any comments that Omarosa had about this relationship.

These two books add to the overwhelming evidence of the general unpresidential nature of the current administration. Unpredictable policy changes are made with an unprecedented tone of public derision of (often particular and personal attacks on individual) African Americans and people of color, women, Moslems, the LGBTQ community, public institutions such as courts, the FBI and intelligence agencies, NATO and other allies, and a free press.  Not since President Nixon and his “enemies list” of reporters and journalists have we had such antagonism between Press and President . The President calling the Press “fake news” and  “the enemy of the people” is extremely disturbing.

Our comparatively civil society is under attack from the very government that should be assuring opportunity and dignity for ALL Americans. Omarosa and Ryan add to the evidence from many others that the current Presidential Administration is dysfunctionally unpredictable, threatening our constitutional democratic republic from within. It will take a generation to regain domestic and international respect and credibility within the framework of our Constitution and the ideals of the Bill of Rights.


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