Sarah Huckabee Sanders "can't guarantee" Trump hasn't used the N-word

At Tuesday White House briefing, press secretary lashes out at Omarosa, media; offers tepid Trump defense

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published August 14, 2018 6:30PM (EDT)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Getty/Win McNamee)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Getty/Win McNamee)

President Donald Trump insisted in tweets Monday night that he’d never used the “terrible and disgusting word” attributed to him by former protégé Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who has revived longstanding allegations that a recording exists of Trump using the most untouchable of racial epithets. But on Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed much less certain.

“Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they will never hear Donald Trump utter the N-word on a recording in any context?” MSNBC’s Kristin Welker asked the press secretary.

“I can’t guarantee anything, but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly,” Sanders offered. “I can tell you that I’ve never heard it.”

Sanders continued: “I can also tell you that if myself or the people that are in this building serving this country every single day, doing our very best to help people all across this country and make it better, if at any point we felt that the president was who some of his critics claim him to be, we certainly wouldn’t be here.”

Trump’s alleged use of the racist epithet is back in the news because his former “Apprentice” star-turned-White House aide, widely known as Omarosa, now claims that a recording exists and she has heard it. 

“I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have,” Trump tweeted earlier this week.

On Tuesday, he took direct aim at Manigault-Newman, who is promoting her new book “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House."

“When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn’t work out,” Trump tweeted. “Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!”

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Asked about the racial implications of dehumanizing a black woman by calling her a dog, Sanders insisted that “this has absolutely nothing to do with race” and sought to defend Trump by pointing out that he has attacked all types of people.

“I think the president is certainly voicing his frustration with the fact that this person has shown a complete lack of integrity, particularly by the actions following her time here at the White House,” Sanders said.

“The fact is, the president’s an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it,” Sanders said. “He always fights fire with fire, and he certainly doesn’t hold back on doing that across the board.”

“This is something that isn’t new and it’s something the American people knew when they voted for him and that overwhelmingly elected him to be the president of the United States,” Sanders reminded the gathered media.

Manigault-Newman said she had never personally heard the recording of Trump using the slur until after her book went to press.

“I had an opportunity to fly out to California, and the person allowed me to hear it,” she told CBS News. “Had I heard it while working in the White House, I would have left immediately.”

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By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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