Uproar Over Omarosa Manigault-Newman at Black Journalists Convention
NEW ORLEANS — The appearance of Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a White House aide, caused an uproar at a National Association of Black Journalists convention on Friday after she refused to answer some questions about President Trump’s recent remarks encouraging the police to be rougher while arresting criminal suspects.
Ms. Manigault-Newman, whose role in the Trump administration as an advocate on issues concerning African-Americans was also scrutinized, appeared at the annual gathering for a panel that was called “Black and Blue: Raising Our Sons, Protecting Our Communities.” It was moderated by a longtime journalist, Ed Gordon, a host at Bounce TV.
The event began cordially, but within minutes, it devolved into a shouting match between Ms. Manigault-Newman and Mr. Gordon. She interrupted him, accusing him several times of attacking her as Mr. Gordon pressed for answers about her role in the Trump administration and changes to criminal justice policies under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In one of the tensest exchanges, Ms. Manigault-Newman said, “Shame on you,” to Mr. Gordon. He replied, in part, “So here’s what you’re not gonna do,” before explaining that he would not let her “railroad” the event.
The panel started with Ms. Manigault-Newman answering a question about the deaths of her father and brother to violence in Ohio. She said she understood the pain of losing a family member and that she was dismayed by accusations that she does not sympathize with families whose loved ones have been killed by the police.
Ms. Manigault-Newman is the director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. She also noted that in her role, she is often the “only African-American representative” in the White House and frequently tries to be an advocate on behalf of black people.
But the discussion quickly worsened from there. It became a 25-minute argument during which Ms. Manigault-Newman called Mr. Gordon “aggressive,” with Mr. Gordon pointedly asking what effect Ms. Manigault-Newman had made on the president.
In one heated exchange, Mr. Gordon recounted Mr. Trump’s comments last month on Long Island that suggested police officers should rough up suspects while taking them into custody. Ms. Manigault-Newman interjected, “Are you suggesting that I just walk away?”
Mr. Gordon replied that he was not suggesting that, and that he would like to finish asking the question. “I don’t want to hear your question,” Ms. Manigault-Newman said, talking over him. “I don’t want to hear a lecture.”
In response, Mr. Gordon began to walk closer to her. Ms. Manigault-Newman, who had been seated, stood up and walked across the stage and said Mr. Gordon was being “aggressive.”
She also accused the crowd of journalists of not having sympathy for the deaths of her father and brother. “I came out to laughter as if this was a joke,” she said. “Walking into a room where you get shut down does not open a line of communication so change can happen.”
At one point, Ms. Manigault-Newman accused Mr. Gordon of brushing aside her relatives’ deaths. When Mr. Gordon said she was wrong, she replied, “I have it on tape, boo.” His response: “O.K., boo, play it.”
Mr. Gordon also asked Ms. Manigault-Newman about what she told the president after his remarks on Long Island. Ms. Manigault-Newman said she could not “disclose confidential conversations with the president,” which led to loud sighing and snickering in the crowd, though Ms. Manigault-Newman did say she thought it was wrong for Mr. Trump to make those comments.
She later said she had invited several law enforcement officials to come to the White House to discuss criminal justice issues. But at one point, asked how she worked with the Justice Department on issues of policing, Ms. Manigault-Newman suggested that people in the room should “Google” her work. Pressed about the topic later, she added, “It’s not even part of my portfolio.”
“I’m not going to stand here and defend everything about Donald Trump,” she said, to loud sighs in the audience.
Heading into the forum, many of the conference attendees said they were steeling themselves for the appearance of Ms. Manigault-Newman, who became famous on “The Apprentice” and has had several fiery exchanges with journalists. Several journalists who were scheduled to be on the panel pulled out of the event after Ms. Manigault-Newman was added.
A handful of people in the audience, including Brittany Packnett, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist and a founder of a policy group called Campaign Zero, stood up and turned their backs toward Ms. Manigault-Newman to protest her presence.
The panel ended abruptly when Ms. Manigault-Newman walked off the stage after Mr. Gordon said it was a “quagmire” that had “reached the point of diminished returns.”
He ended the event by joking, “I’ll see y’all at the White House Christmas party in December.”