Just for the record: Yes, I believe a tape exists of Donald Trump saying the N-word. His entire career, from its beginnings in Queens, has been marked by disdain for racial change. He helped his dad discriminate against black tenants in their apartment buildings and demanded the death penalty for the Central Park Five in the ’80s. The way he threw around the word “pussy” on that Access Hollywood tape made me confident he’d have no trouble using an offensive word for black people as well. The best evidence that such a tape exists is the stunning fact that on Tuesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who regularly lies for her boss, said she couldn’t “guarantee” he was never recorded using that word. Trump himself insists he never uses the word, but on this point, Sanders was unwilling to lie.
Do I think its revelation would doom Trump politically? Probably not. His base won’t care; some will love it. Most of the rest of us already know he’s a racist. We don’t need a tape to prove it.
Still, I’m fascinated with the way the wily Omarosa Manigault Newman is rolling out her book Unhinged and how she’s baiting the president to act out her title, with a half-dozen tweets trashing his former staffer in the last two days. But I’m a little concerned that nothing she produces will sufficiently matter to the media unless she comes up with an N-word tape.
But even without an N-word tape, Omarosa’s book rollout is documenting the way Trump and his administration have degraded the White House in whole new ways. I’m enjoying Omarosa punking her former colleagues by telling these seemingly outlandish tales—Chief of Staff John Kelly fired me in the Situation Room! Donald Trump said he didn’t know! They offered me $15,000 a month essentially to stay silent! The staff once met to handle fallout from the possible release of that N-word tape!—to trigger their prissy denials. Then Omarosa just rolls tape (or produces the very contract she was offered to keep her mouth shut). Her boss and her former colleagues are proven (again) to be liars—and bad liars at that. Sure we already knew it, but the sheer accumulation of evidence has to matter, doesn’t it? Will it?
This is a question about the latest Trump revelation that I’m getting sick of answering, even though it’s my job as a journalist (and particularly a television analyst) to have an answer. This administration is triggering a monolithic nihilism in the media: If we can’t prove X revelation will knock down Trump’s 40-percent or so approval rating—or his near-90 percent with Republicans—then X revelation (along with A, B, C, D—plus Y and Z revelations) are deemed “not to matter.”
But I think we have to report the details and even pore over them a little before our sense of proportion and decency is completely worn away. Take, for instance, the tableau in which Trump staffers scramble to anticipate the release of the legendary N-word tape. The conversation Omarosa taped included herself along with communications staffers Katrina Pierson, Lynne Patton, and Jason Miller. From the CBS News transcript:
Pierson: I am trying to find at least what context it was used in to help us maybe try to figure out a way to spin it.
Patton: I said [to Trump], “Well, sir, can you think of anytime where this happened?” And he said, “no.”