When Trevor Noah sat down with reality-star-turned-White-House-staffer-turned-exposé-writer Omarosa Manigault Newman Tuesday night, he faced a challenge that late night hosts have had to tackle with increasing frequency as former Trump staffers flood the talk show circuit: making sure the sit-down was a real interview, rather than a simple branding opportunity. As an increasingly deep well of ex-White House officials seek to extend their 15 minutes—Sean Spicer is trying to secure a TV comeback, while Anthony Scaramucci coyly denies that hes actively shopping a program with Michael Avenatti—their TV appearances can be a fraught ordeal for late night hosts.
Omarosa, of course, was peddling something on Tuesday night as well: her new book, Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House, which represents her latest second act. First, she parlayed her tenure in the White House into a return to TV via Celebrity Big Brother, where she dropped tantalizingly ominous hints about her time in the administration before using her exit to promote her new tell-all. Now, months later, Omarosa sat with Trevor Noah to promote that very book—framing herself as a truth teller, despite her emergence from a lions den of lies. It was up to Noah to pierce that act—and although the Daily Show host did challenge his guest, their 18-minute conversation also left plenty of follow-ups un-asked.
A telling exchange came early on, when Noah diplomatically told Omarosa that her book does not contain much new information about Trump or his administration—to which she replied, “Its not just about Donald Trump. It also talked about my childhood. I talked about the difficulty going through my fathers murder, my brothers murder, and a lot of things like my family surviving a house fire that killed my cousin.” Noah gently reminded Omarosa that most readers will buy the book hoping to learn more about Trump and his administration, not her—but Omarosas initial response seemed to reveal that for her, this book is just as much about repainting herself in the public eye as it is about exposing Trump.
Noah did not shy away from reminding Omarosa that despite her current stance, she was a willing member of an administration that lies to the American people on a daily basis—and for a moment, she was contrite. “I regret that—that I was totally complicit,” she replied. “But I didnt go in thinking we were gonna lie.” That projection of naïveté is consistent with how Omarosa has presented herself in the past as shes discussed her role in the White House. To hear her tell it, she went into her job with wide eyes and a sense of civic duty—a responsibility to represent the black community. Noah seemed game to try and challenge this, but he was never quite able to crack her facade.
When asked if she believed her presence in the white house actually made a difference, Omarosa touted her trip to Haiti: “When I went there and they saw a representative that looked like me, a person of color, they were so excited, and they actually believed that this administration was going to help that community.” She did not mention that nearly a year later her former boss reportedly called Haiti and several African countries “shithole countries,” and Noah didnt ask her about that, either. Later, though, Noah did note that Trump had frequently made racist comments in the past, about Mexicans, Muslims, and football players, to name just a few. Omarosas response? She claimed that as Trumps comments got worse and she realized he was “declining” and “mentally impaired,” she planned to find a replacement and leave. Noah did not point out that she was actually fired from the West Wing.
Omarosa said she was unable to fully grasp Trumps flaws at first because of the way he had inspired her early in her career. “I did have this blind spot, and I was blindly loyal, and I looked like the biggest dummy following this person because I didnt have the same perspective,” she said. “And sometimes you have to step back in order to get a clear view. And I recognized that I was going down the wrong path with Trump.” One might wonder, again, why it took being fired for her to actually leave.
Much like her coy sit-down with Stephen Colbert in March, Omarosa proved that for the most part, she views everything as a branding opportunity. She made sure to name-check her book multiple times throughout the interview, and dropped quotable lines like, “If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.” And although Noah tried to subtly challenge her, by the end of their chat, it was hard not to wish hed done a little more. As it stands, their conversation was mostly a vehicle for Omarosa to publicize Omarosa.
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