A Panel to Remember: Why Omarosa's Appearance Caused an Uproar at the NABJ Conference
By Alexis Alex
This past week, the National Association of Black Journalists Conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana (and yes, The Executive Tea was there!). The convention is a yearly event held to gather the national network of black journalists for a week full of panels, career fairs, interactive sessions and receptions. Every year, the NABJ sends an invitation to the White House inviting the administration to the event and this year the White House sent their Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liason, Omarosa Manigault – Newman as a representative. As a result, the NABJ invited Omarosa to participate on a panel about police brutality on Friday, and let’s just say it did not go well. To be honest, it was a hot mess.
First, the drama started brewing before the panel even started. Omarosa's appearance was supposed to be a surprise, but when the New York Post leaked that Omarosa was participating in the police brutality panel a couple of hours in advance, some of the journalists expected to appear on the panel and the moderator quickly backed out. To save face, journalist Ed Gordon stepped in at the last minute to moderate the conversation. Needless to say, he used his position as moderator as an opportunity to test Omarosa with his questions. In the beginning, Gordon asked Omarosa about Trump's position on policing, particularly his recent comments that police officers should be “rough” on suspects, and the revived war on drugs that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to wage. But Omarosa quickly made it clear that she could not “disclose confidential conversation with the president.” She responded, “If you want to ask about the loss of my father and my brother and the issues I do, ask about my story,” She continued, "I’m not going to stand here and defend every single word and statement. Ask questions about me or my father and brother.”
At one point, Omarosa arose from her seat and began pacing the stage as it appeared to be a stand off between her and Gordon. The audience was extremely reactive during the exchanges including gasping, rumbling, and groaning that ensued. Some journalists in the room even stood and turned their backs to Omarosa as she was speaking.
When Gordon continued to press her on the administration's policies, she noted that she is important because often she is the only person of color in administration meetings. She stated, "I sit at a table where I am not only the only African-American woman, but the only African-American at all," she said, pushing back at questions about how much she was doing for the community. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu."
After 45 minutes of the madness, Sarah Glover, the President of NABJ, took the stage and urged the audience to calm down and analyze all sides of the issues and be open to contrasting viewpoints. While Glover was speaking, Omarosa quietly snuck off stage and was escorted out by her security detail and that was the bitter end.
In the aftermath of chaos, it was apparent that Omarosa’s appearance on the panel should have never happened. Many NABJ members felt disrespected by Omarosa's invitation to the conference in the first place.
In hindsight, Omarosa could have used this opportunity to improve her relationship with the black community and create an open dialogue, but instead she defended the Trump administration about its relationship with communities of color. What Omarosa failed to realize is it is hard to convince a minority group to support an administration that is clearly silencing their issues. Until Omarosa is ready to get real and have open dialogue about how she can use position to help the black community , there is no point in having a dialogue with her at all. Lesson learned.