White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she couldn’t guarantee that President Trump has never used the n-word after she was asked to do so by journalists at a White House press briefing.
The press secretary’s comments on Tuesday came after former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman alleged that she has heard an audio tape of Trump using the n-word that was made during his time at the NBC reality show, “The Apprentice.”
Asked directly if she could guarantee the American public would never hear a tape of Trump using the n-word, Sanders responded that she “can’t guarantee anything.”
“I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I’ve never heard it,” Sanders said before highlighting African American employment numbers.
Asked again later in the briefing, Sanders again would not directly deny that the tape exists:
“Look, I haven’t been in every single room,” she said. “I can tell you the president has addressed this directly.”
Trump tweeted late Monday that no tapes existed of him using the word while filming “The Apprentice.”
‘‘I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have,” he wrote.
.@MarkBurnettTV 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. Look at her MANY recent quotes saying....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2018
....such wonderful and powerful things about me - a true Champion of Civil Rights - until she got fired. Omarosa had Zero credibility with the Media (they didn’t want interviews) when she worked in the White House. Now that she says bad about me, they will talk to her. Fake News!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2018
Manigault Newman made the explosive claim in a forthcoming book and later told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she heard the tape of him using the slur.
“I heard his voice, as clear as you and I are sitting here,” she told host Chuck Todd in an interview that aired Sunday. “It confirmed that he is truly a racist.”
The following is the full exchange Sanders had with reporters about Omarosa Manigault Newman, according to a White House transcript:
Q Sarah, what we’ve heard from the President via Twitter, Omarosa, describing her as “crazed,” a “crying lowlife,” a “dog” -- is this any way for a President to talk about any American, let alone somebody that he hired and made the highest-ranking African American woman that served in his White House?
MS. SANDERS: I think the President is certainly voicing his frustration with the fact that this person has shown a complete lack of integrity, particularly by the actions following her time here at the White House.
Q But why did he hire her? I mean, why did he hire somebody he’s describing as a “dog,” as a “lowlife”?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President wanted to give her a chance. And he made clear, when General Kelly came on and he voiced concerns that this individual didn’t have the best interests of the White House and the President and the country at heart, the President said, do what you can to get along; and if you can’t, he gave him full authority to carry out the decision to let her go.
Q What is the strategy in continuing to respond to the charges in this book? Why doesn’t he just ignore it?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think he’s made, again, the frustrations -- I think all -- not only those of us here in the White House, but frankly, I think most of America would be happy to ignore. Unfortunately, the individuals in this room continue to create a large platform for somebody they know not to have a lot of credibility, for someone they, frankly, refused to give a platform to when they worked here at the White House.
It wasn’t until this individual started to negatively attack this President and this administration, and try to tear this entire place down, that she received the type of platform and rollout that she’s getting.
I think it would be great if every single person in this room, and every single person in the administration, never had to talk about this again, and we actually got to focus on the real policies and the real things that not matter just to people in this building but certainly all Americans -- African Americans, Hispanics, and everybody in between. I think that would be the best thing that we could certainly do for our country.
Q Thank you, Sarah. What do you say to critics who see his attacks on Omarosa as part of a pattern of insulting prominent African Americans, people he’s taken -- criticized recently -- Don Lemon, Maxine Waters. He’s claimed that football players protesting racial injustice don’t know what they’re protesting.
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President -- this has absolutely nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the President calling out someone’s lack of integrity. The idea that you would only point a few of the things that the President has said negative about people that are minorities -- the fact is, the President is an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it. He always fights fire with fire. And he certainly doesn’t hold back on doing that across the board.
Q And then, have you signed an NDA?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not going to get into the back-and-forth on who has signed an NDA here at the White House. I can tell you that it’s common in a lot of places for employees to sign NDAs, including in government, particularly anyone with a security clearance.
MS. SANDERS: Yeah. Unless there’s another Annie back there. (Laughs.) I don’t know.
Q The President said that he kept Omarosa --
MS. SANDERS: Jon may be happy to go by Annie if that means he gets to take your question. But --
Q The President said he kept Omarosa on despite complaints from her colleagues because she was personally supportive of him and said nice things about him.
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, I can’t hear you.
Q He said he kept her on despite complaints about her behavior because she was personally supportive of him and said nice things about him. Is that true of any other officials that are working in this White House right now?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of that.
Later in the briefing:
Q Sarah, have you asked the President if he’s ever used the N-word?
MS. SANDERS: The President addressed that question directly via Twitter. I would refer you back to him. I can certainly say I’ve never heard him use that term or anything similar.
Q But have you -- have you asked him directly, Sarah?
MS. SANDERS: The President -- I didn’t have to, because he addressed it to the American people --
Q You haven’t asked him?
MS. SANDERS: -- all at one time.
Q Why haven’t you asked him directly?
MS. SANDERS: Again, the President answered that question directly on Twitter earlier today.
Q Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on a recording in any context?
MS. SANDERS: I can’t guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the President addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I’ve never heard it. I can also tell you that if myself or the people that are in this building -- serving this country every single day, doing our very best to help people all across this country, and make it better -- if at any point we felt that the President was who some of his critics claim him to be, we certainly wouldn’t be here.
This is a President who is fighting for all Americans; who is putting policies in place that help all Americans, particularly African Americans. Just look at the economy alone. This President, since he took office, in the year and a half that he’s been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African Americans. That’s 700,000 African Americans that are working now that weren’t working when this President took place.
When President Obama left, after eight years in office -- eight years in office, he had only created 800 -- or 195,000 jobs for African Americans. President Trump in his first year and a half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years. Not only did he do that for African Americans but for Hispanics; 1.7 million more Hispanics are working now. This is a President who cares about all Americans, who is committed to helping them, and is putting policies in place that actually do that.
Q Just to be clear --
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, Kristen, I’m going to go ahead to Kevin.
Kevin, go head.
Q Go ahead.
Q Just to be clear: You can’t guarantee it?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I haven’t been in every single room. I can tell you the President has addressed this directly. He’s addressed it directly to the American people. And I can tell you what the focus and the heart of the President is, and that’s on helping all Americans.
And certainly this is somebody who has been in business for decades, and you’re just now hearing some of these outrageous accusations after the fact he’s dealt with people all over the world. It wasn’t until he became a candidate for President that you started to hear some of these salacious and ridiculous claims. And certainly, I think, if you look at the actions that this President has taken, certainly the policies that he’s enacted, you can see the heart of who he is and you can see exactly what he has done and the type of President and person he is.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Just a very quick one on something that Omarosa said today. She called the President “unfit” -- “mentally unfit” for the office. As someone who worked with her, how surprised are you at the level of her animus toward this President and toward this White House?
And if I could follow up.
MS. SANDERS: I’m certainly -- I think like most people that worked with her -- very disappointed that she would go to such a self-serving, and somebody who blatantly cares more about herself than our country, to make up some of these outrageous claims and accusations. Look, she worked here for a year and didn’t have any of these things to say. In fact, everything she said was quite the opposite -- and not just the year that she worked, but the time that she spent on the campaign trail. And I think it’s really sad what she’s doing at this point.
Q If I could follow very quickly. I wanted to ask you, just very briefly, we read earlier this afternoon that the Trump campaign has made an arbitration action against Omarosa. And I’m just curious -- and I know they’re separate entities -- but is it likely that the White House is considering pursuing something in the way of possible action toward Omarosa for violating a non-disclosure?
MS. SANDERS: I certainly wouldn’t be able to comment on any potential ongoing legal matter.
Q Sarah, a moment ago, you said one of the motives for Omarosa was to “tear this entire place down.” What do you mean by that? And do you have -- or others here have ongoing concerns that, while she was here, she taped other conversations that could either be damaging to the reputation of this White House or revelatory as something you’d rather keep private?
MS. SANDERS: I think the greatest concern we have is the lack of integrity that this individual has shown.
Q One thing that -- one other thing, Sarah. She played a tape recording of a conversation with the President. Do you have any doubt that that is an authentic conversation that she had with the President?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t.
Q Okay, then related to that -- the President said he was “unaware” in that conversation. Is that -- was that a truthful representation of what he knew at the time? Or was he just trying to make Omarosa feel better?
MS. SANDERS: As I said moments ago, the President had had a direct conversation with General Kelly; asked him to try to work things out. If it didn’t, he gave General Kelly the full authority to make decisions about hiring and firing, including with respect to Omarosa.
Q So he was making her feel better? Because he knew what had happened and he knew he’d approved it.
MS. SANDERS: On the timing, I think is -- he knew that it was certainly a possibility. But as to the fact whether or not General Kelly had called the President, I don’t think he had at that point.