After days of lead-up, including the release of secret recordings and accusations that President Donald Trump is racist and in mental decline, Omarosa Manigault-Newman’s new book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, has arrived.
Manigault-Newman, the former Apprentice contestant turned top White House aide, has been creating quite a buzz about her book in recent days. Over the weekend, she appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, during which she played a recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly firing her in the White House Situation Room in December, and accused the Trump campaign of trying to buy her silence. On Monday, she played another tape, this time of a phone call with Trump, who seemed dismayed after she was fired.
The White House has put out statements trying to discredit Manigault-Newman, with her former boss brushing her off as a “lowlife” who was “vicious, but not smart.” That her actions since her dismissal have been high-drama shouldn’t be surprising: her firing was chaotic, she seemed eager to spill secrets on CBS’s Celebrity Big Brother, and, of course, she’s one of the most infamous reality television stars in America.
The book itself is what you might expect, given the lead-up. Unhinged is part memoir (the first chapters are devoted to Manigault-Newman’s upbringing and her role on The Apprentice), part tell-all from behind the scenes at the White House, complete with plenty of gossipy asides. It’s filled with salacious — and often unverifiable — allegations and wild tales. It reads like a guilty pleasure, a beach read that delves into the lives of the rich and famous or purports to take us backstage at a hit reality TV show to reveal backstabbing and gossip underneath. Except that the subject is, in fact, the president of the United States, and the reality show in question has the highest stakes of all.
Here are some of the headline-grabbing claims:
1) Omarosa definitely believes the n-word tape is real
If Unhinged has a thematic throughline, it’s the rumored tape of Trump using a racial slur — yes, that racial slur — to refer to black people. Manigault-Newman says she’s never heard the tape herself. But it comes up repeatedly in the book, in part as Manigault-Newman, an African-American woman who’s been in Trump’s orbit since the Apprentice days, struggles with his record on race. Early on in the book, she even claims that the real reason for her White House firing was that she was getting too close to finding the tape:
I’d emailed before one of our daily comms meetings that a source from The Apprentice days had contacted me and claimed to be in possession of the tape. By that point, three sources in three separate conversations had described the contents of this tape. They all told me that President Trump hadn’t just dropped a single N-word bomb. He’d said it multiple times throughout the show’s taping during off-camera outtakes, particularly during the first season of The Apprentice.
Ultimately, she says, Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson verified its existence — something Pierson denied, saying she was just humoring her “crazy” talk about the tape. “She was obsessed with it,” Pierson told the Daily Beast:
Katrina had heard from her sources that the tape was of Trump using the N-word. Someone she knew, who knew political strategist Frank Luntz, told her that Luntz had heard it.
Lynne (Patton, Donald Trump Jr.’s longtime personal assistant)reported that she asked Trump about it on the plane, specifically whether it was possible that such a tape might exist, and he said “no.” Then, she asked him what he wanted her to do, and he said, “Put it to bed.”
Katrina cursed and said, “He said it.”
And late in the book, Manigault-Newman gives a few more specifics from a phone conversation with a nameless source after she left the White House:
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. During production he was miked, and there is definitely an audio track.
Chatter about this tape has been around since the campaign (indeed, Manigault-Newman released audio of campaign officials appearing to discuss what they would do if the tape in fact existed). The biggest argument against its existence might be that despite all of these rumors, we haven’t heard it yet — unlike the Access Hollywood audio. But in Unhinged, Manigault-Newman seems determined to put it back on the agenda in a big way.
2) Trump paid a very awkward visit to a black church, implied Harriet Tubman was ugly, and had to be coached not to say “you people”
The n-word tape is the most explosive allegation, but throughout the book, Manigault-Newman, who was the most senior African-American adviser at the White House and says the reaction to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a turning point for her, chronicles what she alleges are some cringeworthy moments from Trump on race. They include rumors she’d heard that Trump called another black contestant on The Apprentice “uppity.” (Like the infamous n-word tape, this isn’t something she actually heard herself.)
In early September 2016, Trump went to Detroit and spoke at the Great Faith Ministries Church (whose pastor, Wayne T. Jackson, would later speak at Trump’s inauguration). According to Omarosa — who claimed she organized the event — Trump was extremely uncomfortable, to say the least, in a black church:
I had a lot of organizational things to do, so I got up to take care of them. He grabbed my wrist and said, “You can’t leave me with these people.” The look in his eyes was like a lost child.
Omarosa claims that Trump complained about the length of the service — “This is the longest I’ve ever been to church in my life” — and threw off the prayer shawl Jackson offered him as a gift.
Meanwhile, Manigault-Newman says, she had to coach Trump not to say offensive things during a 2017 speech to mark the beginning of Black History Month — the one where Trump went infamously off script by observing that Frederick Douglass “is getting recognized more and more.” Manigault-Newman opines that he clearly “didn’t know who Frederick Douglass was,” and describes the preparation for the speech:
For this particular speech, I begged him not to say, “What do we have to lose?” or to refer to the participants as “you people” as he had during the campaign’s ministers’ meeting.
“You people is pejorative,” I explained to him.
He looked puzzled.
I said, “It’s bad. Just don’t say it. Ever.”
When he practiced the opener, he spoke only in fragments, not complete sentences. When I tried to correct him, he became frustrated and more irritable. I left the Oval praying to God that Donald Trump didn’t go off script or say something crazy or draw attention away from the fact that it was the first day of Black History Month.
He knew I was concerned, and he said, “I got it. Don’t worry. The blacks love me!”
There’s also this anecdote about the Trump administration’s decision to keep Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Manigault-Newman had written a memo urging Trump to reconsider and put Harriet Tubman on the bill, as the Obama administration has proposed. Trump’s reaction, according to Manigault-Newman, was to effectively call Tubman ugly:
While flipping through the folder, he came to the picture of Tubman, the woman who personally brought more than three hundred slaves to freedom, risking her own life every time, and said to me, “You want to put that face on the twenty-dollar bill?”
This wasn’t confined to Trump himself either, according to Unhinged. Manigault-Newman, whose job included working with historically black colleges and universities, says that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos implied the students who booed her commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman College “don’t have the capacity to understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” and that Kelly Sadler, a White House aide, discouraged her from bringing HBCU students to the White House because “after Charlottesville, they might riot. They might burn the place down.”
3) Trump chewed up and swallowed a note from Michael Cohen
As she describes the full-court press from the Trump campaign to join them, up to and including the president, Omarosa provides a little armchair psychology about the relationship between Michael Cohen (who now, of course, could be pivotal to the Robert Mueller investigation) and Donald Trump:
Michael Cohen is a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. He comes off profane and blunt, with bravado, and that’s exactly who he is. He’s also very funny and very street-smart. He’d have to be: he graduated from an average law school and managed to hustle up clients and a career.
For his part, Trump was not always respectful to Michael, often mocking him and belittling him. Trump had sussed out that Michael would work ten times harder to earn praise if it were rarely given.
The strangest anecdote about Cohen, though, comes later in the book. Manigault-Newman writes that Trump has a habit of tearing up papers once he’s done with him, and, as has been reported elsewhere, staffers are charged with taping them back together to preserve them under the Presidential Records Act. But she says once she saw Trump in the Oval Office with Michael Cohen, apparently so determined to keep a note from getting out that he put it in his mouth and chewed it up:
I guess they didn’t know that he would pocket sensitive notes or that once, after a meeting in the Oval with Michael Cohen, I saw him put a note in his mouth. Since Trump was ever the germaphobe, I was shocked he appeared to be chewing and swallowing the paper. It must have been something very, very sensitive.
4) Omarosa claims she suspected Trump was “delusional” or “had a mental condition”
Manigault-Newman writes that by March 2017, she was increasingly concerned about the president’s “mental state”:
I’d been watching Donald for two months day to day in the White House with growing concern about his mental state. He seemed to be showing signs of deterioration. I chalked it up, mainly, to his being out of his comfort zone in unfamiliar settings and the immense pressure of the job, after having operated at the helm of the Trump Organization at Trump Tower for decades. His forgetfulness and frustration were getting worse.
Any time somebody new came in to brief him, he’d get angry and say, “Who’s that guy? What’s he want?”
He would rail against the fact that he had a terrible team. He hated the staff because of the tsunami of leaks. He was paranoid and constantly irritable.
I seriously began to suspect that the president was delusional or had a mental condition, that made him forget from one day to the next. Was Donald like Ronald Reagan, impaired while everyone around him ran the show and covered up for him? Was Mike Pence his Nancy Reagan, with the same vapid, adoring looks?
Manigault-Newman writes that Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in which he declared he fired FBI Director James Comey because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story” was, to her, more than a political error by the president — it was a sign that “something real and serious was going on in Donald’s brain.” She said she wasn’t sure who she could talk to about it and tried to reach out to Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who just told her, “It’s fine”:
While watching that interview, I realized that something real and serious was going on in Donald’s brain. His mental decline could not be denied. Many in the White House didn’t notice it as keenly as I did because I knew him way back when. They thought Trump was being Trump, off the cuff. But I knew something wasn’t right.
5) Trump talked Omarosa out of suing the National Enquirer in exchange for a job
The National Enquirer sent a reporter to pretend to be a mourner at Manigault-Newman’s brother’s funeral after his 2011 murder and planned to run Manigault-Newman’s eulogy as an “exclusive interview.” Manigault-Newman was going to sue the publication, but Trump called her to talk her out of it at the behest of David Pecker, the publisher of the Enquirer, CEO of American Media, and a longtime friend of Trump.
They struck a deal: Manigault-Newman would drop the lawsuit and Pecker would give her a job. It’s not all that different from the deal Pecker made with former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump:
As a personal favor to Pecker, Donald agreed to call me and talk me out of the lawsuit, but I was so angry they’d portrayed me as someone who’d seek publicity over my dead brother’s body that I was reluctant to drop it. Donald went back to Pecker and negotiated a deal for me. In exchange for a settlement with American Media, Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, they would give me the high-profile job and title of West Coast Editor.
6) Melania wanted Trump to win — but she’s using her fashion choices to punish him
Manigault-Newman disputes reports that Melania Trump cried on the night of the election and actually says the soon-to-be first lady was actually elated:
Melania was right behind him, and I remember thinking, “She’s smiling!” Melania rarely smiles. Reports that Melania spent Election Day sobbing in a corner are inaccurate. Melania was as upbeat as I’d ever seen her in thirteen years of our acquaintance, and very engaged by what was going on. She, like everyone, wanted to win, desperately. I suppose she had some concerns about how her life would change tomorrow, but on that night, she was hoping for a victory.
In chapter 12, Manigault-Newman recounts a different version of Melania Trump: the one who has been spotted swatting her husband’s hand away when he reaches for her. “I believe that by avoiding Donald’s clasp in public, Melania was grasping the full extent of her new power. At any time, if she so desired, she could humiliate him in public with small, ambiguous gestures, just as he’d openly humiliated her with his affairs and lascivious behavior for years.”
Meanwhile, Manigault-Newman speculates that Trump is dangling Melania’s immigration status over her head:
It was often discussed among Trumpworld intimates that Donald had something to do with Melania’s obtaining a rare Einstein Visa, a.k.a. an EB-1, that gives immigrants with “extraordinary ability” or “sustained national and international acclaim” US citizenship. Many have questioned her qualifications for receiving this visa, and have speculated that Trump was able to use his networks and resources to secure it or expedite it. Since Donald is fully aware of however she acquired her permanent citizenship, he could, if there were anything fishy around it, expose the methods and somehow invalidate it. He is a vindictive man, and I would not put anything past him. If Melania were to try to pull the ultimate humiliation and leave him while he’s in office, he would find a way to punish her.
And that Melania is fighting back by punishing him with her fashion choices, including the infamous “I really don’t care” jacket she wore to visit immigrant children:
I believe Melania uses style to punish her husband. It’s my opinion that Melania was forced to go to the border that day in June, essentially, to mop up her husband’s mess. She wore that jacket to hurt Trump, setting off a controversy that he would have to fix, prolonging the conversation about the administration’s insensitivity, ruining the trip itself, and trying to make sure that no one asked her to do something like that again. Not that Melania doesn’t have compassion for immigrant children; I’m sure she does. But she gladly, spitefully, wrecked her husband’s directives to make him look foolish.
All in all, the portrait Manigault-Newman paints of the Trumps’ marriage is full of petty insults and one-upmanship — but it’s also somewhat contradictory.
7) Trump encouraged Gene Simmons to leer at Ivanka
Manigault-Newsman claims that while taping Celebrity Apprentice, one cast member, Gene Simmons of the band Kiss, was “the most disgusting misogynist I had ever met”:
During one long break, Gene and Donald engaged in language so profane, it would have raised eyebrows in prison. Donald asked Gene, “What do you think of Ivanka? How’s she doing?” What followed was a vile exchange, right in front of Ivanka, with Gene Simmons talking about her in a room full of people. While leering openly at her breasts, he said, “She’s a very, very sexy, desirable young woman who I’m looking forward to getting to know much better if you know what I mean, with all due respect.” Her father egged him on. Ivanka groaned dismissively and tried to get them to change subjects. I have to assume she’d been dealing with this her whole life and was used to it. Everyone else in the room was shocked, not by Gene’s language (we knew he was a disgusting pig), but by Donald’s obvious delight in hearing it. He had complete control of the boardroom. He could have shut it down at any point. But he didn’t.
Manigault-Newman goes on to opine that Trump “covets” his daughter:
For as long as I’d known Trump, I’d observed the way he hugs, touches, and kisses Ivanka; the way she calls him Daddy. In my opinion, based on my observations, their relationship goes up to the line of appropriate father/daughter behavior and jumps right over it. I believe he covets his daughter. It’s uncomfortable to watch them carry on, especially during that season of Celebrity Apprentice when she was so young. For her part, she knows she’s Daddy’s little girl, and I believe she exploits his fixation with her to get her way. (Ivanka, by the way, has the worst potty mouth, which is such a contrast to her completely poised, sophisticated presentation.)
And at a meeting ahead of the Republican convention during the campaign, Trump stopped everyone to talk about how good Ivanka looked in her skirt:
Ivanka came into the room wearing a fitted skirt. The entire meeting had to stop so he could gush about her body.
8) Trump called Donald Jr. a “fuck-up” — multiple times
Meanwhile, Trump appears less than satisfied with his eldest son in Omarosa’s telling. Apparently, Donald Jr.’s sharing of a xenophobic meme about Skittles toward the end of the presidential campaign sent Trump over the edge:
Don Jr. likened Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles, reigniting the outcry that the entire family was racist, hated Muslims, and equated immigrants and asylum seekers with terrorists. Trump just shook his head and said, “Look at what he did now. He screwed up again. What a f**kup.”
When news of Donald Trump Jr.’s role in organizing a meeting with Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Russians in 2016 emerged in the summer of 2017 and the younger Trump eventually tweeted out emails setting up the encounter, the president again called him a “f**kup,” Manigault-Newman writes:
The Russia inquiry continued to percolate all summer. On July 11, Don Jr. released the email chain about his meeting in Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer.
When I saw Donald that day, I said, “I’m sorry to hear about Don.”
He said, “He is such a f**kup. He screwed up again, but this time, he’s screwing us all, big-time!”
And Trump’s first impression of Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, was that he seemed a little gay. At least according to Omarosa:
Donald wasn’t always such a fan of Jared. When he and Ivanka first started dating, I asked Donald what he thought of Jared. “He seems a little sweet to me,” he said, using his phrasing for “gay.”)
9) The White House gossip: Trump fired an usher over a tanning bed
The book also includes plenty of White House gossip — including that in May, President Trump fired chief usher Angella Reid, the first woman and second black person to hold the position. Manigault-Newman says it’s because she did a bad job of bringing a tanning bed to the White House, as the president had requested:
The official line: “We don’t discuss personnel matters.”
The unofficial line? That she wasn’t very well liked and, allegedly, Trump didn’t approve of her handling of his tanning bed. I’d heard he was unhappy with her efforts to procure the bed, to bring it into the East Wing securely, to find a discreet place for it, and to set it up properly. Also, apparently, Reid just hated him and didn’t hide her feelings about it.
Manigault-Newman mentions the tanning bed on two other occasions in the book: She jokes that Trump has only his tanning bed “for company” in the White House residence since Melania sleeps separately, and she writes that he has daily tanning sessions. He prefers them in the morning so he “looks good” all day.
10) Trump wanted to be sworn in on The Art of the Deal
Omarosa explains that Trump “wasn’t inspired” by the Bibles available to him in the National Archives for his inauguration, and had a less conventional idea: getting sworn in on The Art of the Deal and selling commemorative copies:
He asked me, “Omarosa, what do you think about me getting sworn in on The Art of the Deal?”
I said, “Instead of the Bible?”
“Yeah. The Art of the Deal is a bestseller! It’s the greatest business book of all time. It’s how I’m going to make great deals for the country. Just think how many copies I’d sell — maybe a commemorative inauguration copy?!”
“I know you’re not going to be a traditional president, but that’s just too crazy. Whatever you do, don’t repeat that idea to anybody else,” I said.
We laughed. He wanted me to believe he was kidding.
11) Trump has a nickname for Betsy DeVos
According to Omarosa, Donald Trump doesn’t think much of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — who’s embarrassed herself a couple of times by appearing uninformed about America’s public school system. In fact, he’s got a nickname for her:
Billionaire Betsy DeVos (whom Trump calls Ditzy DeVos behind her back) was selected as secretary of education.