Excerpted from "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House" by Omarosa Manigault Newman. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Introduction - Loyalty Over Logic
Since driving out of the gates of West Executive Drive on that night of my separation from the White House, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect. The months that followed were very emotional and exhausting, but also cathartic.
In hindsight, I can see that there were so many times I could have—and perhaps should have—left Trumpworld. But at every single juncture, I stayed. Many have wondered why I stood by President Trump for nearly fifteen years. The simple answer to this very complex question: I stayed because of loyalty.
Loyalty is a loaded topic when it comes to Donald Trump. His moblike loyalty requirements are exacting, imperishable, and sometimes unethical (as in James Comey’s case). But for the people in Trumpworld, loyalty to him is an absolute and unyielding necessity, akin to followers’ devotion to a cult leader.
My membership in Trumpworld began when I was in my twenties, in 2003. He was one of the most famous men in America, a businessman I admired and wanted to emulate. I grew up poor and on public assistance, and I looked up to affluent figures like him. I desired to experience his extraordinary success for myself, to have a life of wealth and luxury. Donald Trump was uncannily intuitive and extremely perceptive. He seemed to be able to sense when certain individuals were susceptible to being influenced by his power and abiding by his loyalty demands -- as was seen later with people like his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, his first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Hope Hicks. His demands increased over time, as did the loyalty of his followers.
Even if people are banished from Trumpworld, it’s usually only temporary. No one can ever leave for good. As soon as you get out, they reel you back in, like ousted adviser Steve Bannon (now back on in an unofficial capacity), fired campaign manager Lewandowski (now working at Mike Pence’s PAC, or political action committee), and personal aide John McEntee (now on the Trump reelection campaign).
Just a few days after my departure from the White House, I received a call from Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump. They were calling me together from Mar-a-Lago to check on me. Lara said, “You know how much we love you, how much DJT loves you. The first thing he said to me on Thursday night was, ‘Where is Omarosa? Is she okay?’ He wants to make sure you’re okay and taken care of. I’d love to have you on board the campaign.”
She was calling on behalf of the president to offer me a senior position on his 2020 reelection campaign. I expressed my gratitude to Lara and asked her to send the details of the offer over in an email, which I received soon after. I called to share the news with my husband, who expressed incredulity.
Treating someone with love and kindness after abuse is a classic cult tactic. I felt myself being manipulated, but refused to allow that to happen.
Before ending the call, Lara mentioned a recent article about my departure in the New York Times by Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, where they reported, “Mrs. Newman said in the Good Morning America interview, ‘I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that have affected my community and my people. It is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.’ . . . [Mrs. Newman] had been trying to raise ‘grave concerns’ about an issue that would ‘affect the president in a big way.’ Former and current White House officials said they were uncertain what she was referring to. . . . The woman who cultivated a reputation as the ultimate TV villain is urging viewers to stay tuned to find out why she really left.”
Lara continued, “That’s something you can’t tell people about,” she said. “If you come on board, we can’t have you mention that stuff.”
In the moment, I believed she was referring most specifically to The Apprentice–era N-word tape. Or was it the nearly fifteen years of Trumpworld insider information I was privy to?
I turned down the president’s offer to work for the 2020 campaign. In my response declining the position, I explained that I was not interested in working for his campaign, his company, his family, or for him directly in any capacity. My break with Donald Trump was not just a matter of resentment over how my separation was mishandled by John Kelly and the team of lawyers who locked me in the Situation Room that night. The change in my mind and heart was due to a combination of factors, but mainly, my growing realization that Donald Trump was indeed a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist. My certainty about the N-word tape and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I’d experienced with him, during the last two years in particular. It had finally sunk in that the person I thought I’d known so well for so long was actually a racist. Using the N-word was not just the way he talks, but, more disturbing, it was how he thought of me and African Americans as a whole.
SOME PEOPLE MIGHT say they knew his true colors all along, so why didn’t I? I’m not sure that I could have, given our long history and the slow evolution of our connection.
Among all "The Apprentice" alumni, I was the first contestant Donald Trump singled out, whom he had invested in professionally, who he’d brought onto his campaign and into the White House. When we first met, he needed his show to have big ratings and to be a resounding success. I sought to win the job, lead one of his companies, and learn valuable business lessons from “one of the most successful businessmen of all time,” as he described himself. If I gained fame and fortune along the way, that would not be a problem for me.
We were repeatedly told how lucky we were to have been selected from 215,000 applicants for the first season of the show. I did feel very fortunate to have been chosen, as it changed the trajectory of my career and my life. Our relationship was symbiotic; we exploited each other. Trump and NBC used me to promote the show, lobby for an Emmy, and bring in diverse viewers. I used the success of the first season to catapult my Hollywood career on multiple shows, movies, a book deal, and celebrity appearances. Back then, being in Trumpworld was lucrative.
It paid social dividends as well. People thought it was so cool to know Donald Trump personally. Very frequently, people came up to me and said, “Wow, you know him! What’s he really like? Is his hair real?” They were fascinated by him, and by me for knowing him.
The Donald Trump of 2018 is not the same man he was in 2003. When I met him, many of our beliefs were aligned. He identified with Democrats and supported commonsense gun control, like banning assault weapons; legalizing marijuana; universal health care; and even a tax hike on the wealthy. He thought Hillary Clinton was a “great” senator and donated money to her campaigns and at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Between then and his run for the White House, he changed his party affiliation several times, landing on Republican. When he announced on CNN’s "Larry King Live" his exploratory committee with possible intent to run for president, he said, “I’m a registered Republican. I’m a pretty conservative guy. I’m somewhat liberal on social issues, especially health care, etcetera. . . . I think that nobody is really hitting it right. The Democrats are too far left. . . . The Republicans are too far right.”
I couldn’t say I disagreed. When his campaign began, I received calls and notes from friends and confidants warning me to be careful not to get used or exploited. I was confused about their concern. I would reply, “Donald and I have known each other for years, and I’m loyal to him.” My loyalty was baked in by then. And remember, in the summer of 2015, no one took his campaign seriously, or thought he was ever going to win. What harm was there in helping out my old pal, especially in light of my having been betrayed by the Clinton campaign a month earlier? (We will get to that a little later.)
That fateful evening when I was locked in the Situation Room was one of the most pivotal moments in my adult life. The next day, when people laughed with glee about my departure, I wasn’t surprised. They thought I had it coming, and that might have been fair. I’m famous for dishing it out, and I can take my lumps, too. I also believe that mocking me was their way of belittling Trump. Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unreachable to them, but I was low-hanging fruit, an easy target to swing at. If the story that was being reported was true, it confirmed their suspicions, that Trump was just using me and would discard me the first chance he got. Having been in politics for twenty years, I’ve seen this type of bad behavior on both sides of the aisle. I worked in the Clinton White House and the Trump White House. I worked with the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. I’ve observed the media and voter manipulation, lies, corruption, and scandals from both parties. Considering that acrimony in politics touches everyone, I never took it personally. I used their mockery and meanness to fuel my comeback plans.
Leaving this job or being mocked in the media are hardly the worst things I’ve faced. I am tough because of the extraordinarily difficult things I have been through in life. As hard as times have been, my life is an example of how great and powerful the American dream is. A girl from the Westlake Terrace housing project in Youngstown, Ohio, can grow up in abject poverty and rise -- not once, but twice -- to work as a political appointee to two US presidents. I accomplished this despite preexisting racial biases toward strong black women. Say what you will about my standing by Trump for way too long (which I agree with!), I was the only African American woman in the room, the only one speaking up for a community that, in the Trump White House, had not one other voice.
I’ve been cast as the villain since my first day on television, and I nurtured that persona because it worked for my Hollywood career. That was fine for a reality TV star. But people didn’t want to see a reality star in the White House -- I mean, other than Trump himself.
It’s time to tell my story. It’s a good one.
No doubt, you’ve come here with prejudice about who you think I am. But all I’m asking is that you hear me out.