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Sarah Sanders can't name a single senior black staffer in the White House

The day after the Trump administration removed yet another high-profile black woman from her job in the White House, they were unable to name a single black staffer working on the Trump team. Former “Apprentice” contestant and Donald Trump apologist Omarosa Manigault-Newman was removed from her White House position — and from the White house […]

By Oliver Willis - December 14, 2017
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Former “Apprentice” contestant and Donald Trump apologist Omarosa Manigault-Newman was removed from her White House position — and from the White house physically, according to reports — under circumstances that could be described as murky, at best.

She later told ABC News that after Trump’s statements supporting rioting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, “There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that made me very unhappy with — that I was very uncomfortable with. Things that I observed, that I heard, that I listened to.”

In the daily press briefing, NBC reporter Kristen Welker asked press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “How many senior staffers here at the White House are African-American??”

The question appeared to stymie Sanders.

“We always want to continue to grow the diversity here,” she said, evading the question. Eventually she added, “I don’t have a number directly in front of me, specifically not African-American.”

WELKER: With Omarosa leaving, how many senior staffers here at the White House are African-American?

SANDERS: We have a really diverse team across the board at the White House. We always want to continue to grow the diversity here. We’re going to continue to do that and continue to work hard. I don’t have a number directly in front of me specifically not African-American, but again, we have a very diverse team at the White House, certainly a very diverse team in the press office, and something that we strive for every day is to add and grow to be more diverse and more representative of the country at large, and we will continue to do that.

WELKER: She was really tasked with reaching out to the African-American community. Have you identified who’s going to take that role, and how critical is it to this president and to this administration to make sure that role is in fact filled?

SANDERS: Yeah, I think that there will be people that are part of that process and have been part of that process that will continue to be. This wasn’t something that was a singular effort by any one individual. A member of the Cabinet, Ben Carson, I know has been engaged in talk with the president on this issue. But it’s not just within the White House. The president met with Sen. Tim Scott. I know he wants to continue those conversations as well to look at the best ways to do that and to do outreach to that community.

WELKER: I want to follow up on one of April’s questions. What Omarosa said today was, “I’ve seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, and have affected my community and my people.” Were her concerns ever addressed or dealt with?

SANDERS: The comments that she made — that was the first time I heard those. Whether she raised them with other individuals, I’m not aware. I know she regularly brought up specific issues where they were talked about in meetings. And we addressed them at the time.

WELKER: Do you know what any of her concerns were?

SANDERS: I don’t. That’s a question that you would have to ask her, and I’m really not going to speak on her behalf in that regard. But I do know that it’s something that we take seriously and something that we want to see improve across all fronts.

The firing of Manigault-Newman comes months after Trump purged White House usher Angella Reid, who was the first black woman to serve in that position. She was replaced by Timothy Harleth, who worked in Trump’s hotels.

He is a white man.

In the briefing, Sanders went on to invoke the name of Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who has been a convenient black figure Trump has used as a prop when caught being racist. It was Scott who Trump met with after Charlottesville, though his administration lied to the public and said the encounter went far better than it truly did.

The White House had tasked Manigault-Newman as its emissary to speak to black Americans, who overwhelming voted for Hillary Clinton and have never supported Trump’s presidency. That mission has gone badly, with leaders indicating that sending the former reality TV villain to address the concerns of millions of Americans was a sign that Trump does not take the issue seriously.

Asked who would now serve in that row, Sanders cited Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The entire exchange encapsulated the Trump approach to race. Instead of addressing the racial issue with the purge of black staffers, his press secretary fumbled and failed to to name any black staffers.

She then threw out the names of some unrelated black Republicans, trying to move past an issue that has been impossible for Trump and his racist leanings to reconcile.


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