Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman told at least three longtime Donald Trump aides that a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” Troy McClain, played a tape for her in the White House that included the president saying a racial slur while he was wearing a microphone during a taping of the reality show, sources have told HuffPost. Manigault Newman told one staffer that hearing the tape was what led her to resign that evening (Dec. 12, 2017) and that she informed White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that she had heard the tape. But the account that Manigault Newman offered to these Trump aides is vastly different from the one she’s been offering publicly in her book and on her media tour.
Manigault Newman told multiple Trump aides last December that the audio played for her by McClain included Trump allegedly used a racial slur in referring to a black “Apprentice” contestant, Kwame Jackson. In an interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews on Monday night, Manigault Newman said that she had heard the alleged tape, that it was three minutes in length and that Trump used the slur in speaking about Jackson. She did not say who played the tape for her. Manigault Newman also said that the tape of the audio was in possession of “Apprentice” producer Bill Pruitt.
Jackson did not reply to requests for comment.
Reached by phone last Saturday, Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump organization aide who now is a top official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, recounted the phone call she received from Manigault Newman the night the White House aide was fired. Patton said that Manigault Newman told her last December that McClain played her the audio, which Manigault Newman told her was in Pruitt’s possession. Two other Trump aides received such calls, they confirmed to HuffPost. Those two aides asked to remain anonymous.
Pruitt caused a stir before the 2016 presidential campaign after the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was leaked to The Washington Post, when he tweeted, “As a producer on seasons 1 & 2 of [The Apprentice] I assure you: when it comes to the Trump Tapes there are far worse.” In interviews, Pruitt said that Trump would regularly make racist and anti-Semitic statements. But he has aggressively denied that he was in possession of any such tapes, which contradicts Manigault Newman’s claims both to Trump aides like Patton and to Matthews on his MSNBC program.
McClain, reached by phone, confirmed that he met with Manigault Newman in the White House in December 2017, while she was director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, but when McClain was asked if he played a recording for her of the president using a racial slur, he laughed and said, “You’ve got to be bullshitting me. Is this a joke?”
McClain denied that he ever played such a recording and said that Manigault Newman would never say he did. But multiple sources familiar with her communication about the meeting with McClain confirm that she said he played the audio file for her or that he discussed that he had heard the audio with her.
Multiple attempts to reach McClain a second time were unsuccessful.
Eight sources spoke to HuffPost for this story. They were granted anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak to the press or are bound by non-disclosure agreements.
A source close to Hicks said Manigault Newman did bring up the conversation she said she had with McClain about the possible existence of a tape, but that she never said that the contestant played such an audio for her. Manigault Newman approached Hicks with the information about the alleged tape after she had been fired by Kelly in the White House Situation Room. Sources who spoke to HuffPost now believe that Manigault Newman brought up the audio in an attempt to salvage her job in the White House, especially given that she brought up the audio after she was terminated by Kelly.
In a tweet posted Monday evening, Trump said, in part, “[Mark Burnett] called to say that there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa. I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have. She made it up.”
Six former Trump campaign and White House staffers describe Manigault Newman as obsessed with finding out more about the alleged tape, saying she brought it up constantly. Manigault Newman said that, on a campaign bus trip with Katrina Pierson, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman; Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law; Patton, a longtime Trump Organization aide now at HUD; and Diamond and Silk, two major African-American Trump supporters, she had heard about the “n-word tape” but was unaware of the context in which Trump might have used the racial epithet. She added, according to two sources familiar with the conversation, that people in possession of the tape were nervous about releasing it should they come in the crosshairs of Mark Burnett, the powerful television producer who was the executive producer of “The Apprentice,” which starred Trump. Burnett and his wife, actress and producer Roma Downey, sold their production company to MGM in 2014 and 2015, and Burnett now serves as chairman of MGM Television.
According to multiple sources, Manigault Newman called Patton the evening she was terminated by Kelly. She told Patton that McClain, who competed on the first season of the NBC competition program, had come to visit her in the White House. Manigault Newman’s office was in the Old Executive Office Building, which sits across from the West Wing, separated by a private driveway. It’s unclear if she met with McClain in her office or in another part of the White House complex.
She told Patton that McClain was anxious and scared and shared that he had an audio file he wanted to play for her. In an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Manigault Newman said her source was terrified to come forward.
Manigault Newman told Patton that in the tape, described as audio from a microphone Trump was wearing on the TV show set, Trump could be heard complaining that his makeup artist didn’t use latex gloves that day (Trump is a self-described germaphobe) and that he was eager to wrap up the day early because the microphone pack was hot and causing him discomfort. He then talked about Jackson. Manigault Newman said he referred to Jackson as a “n****r.”
Manigault Newman also brought up the tape, according to one person familiar with her conversations, when she whipped some campaign staffers into a frenzy before one of the presidential debates in the fall of 2016. According to two people familiar with her warnings, she told staffers that she heard Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign had obtained the alleged “Apprentice” outtakes and was planning to release it the night of the debate. No such tape was ever released by Clinton’s campaign or anyone else.
Since her new book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, was published, she has offered conflicting accounts of the alleged audio recording of Trump using a racial slur. In her book, she says she received a call from a person (whom she declines to name): “On this phone conversation, I was told exactly what Donald Trump said ― yes, the N-word and others in a classic Trump-goes-nuclear rant ― and when he’d said them. For over a year I’d been so afraid of hearing the specifics from someone who’d been in the room. Hearing the truth freed me from that fear. And only now that it’s gone, do I realize just how heavy it’s been.”
In an interview with NPR, Manigault Newman claimed that she heard the tape, but when NPR’s Rachel Martin pointed out that in her book she says that a person who called her described the tape to her, Manigault Newman replied that “hearing the truth” meant she heard the tape.
As the contradictions continue to build, Manigault Newman’s claims have been difficult to track. She told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” that she had heard the audio after her book was published. She told multiple Trump staffers that she heard the audio the day she was fired.
What’s clear is that Manigault Newman has stirred up the kind of chaos she has always thrived in, whether it be on a reality show or working for the most powerful man in the world.