The president lashes out at a lot of people, but his harshest attacks often fall on black women.
President Donald Trump called former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman — the woman who once served as his highest-profile black staffer — a “dog” on Twitter Tuesday morning.
“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!”
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. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2018
The comment comes as Manigault-Newman, who was fired from the White House in December, releases her new book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.
The former director of communications in the White House’s Office of Public Liaison released a number of details about the book in recent weeks, but has drawn the most attention for allegations that Trump was recorded using the n-word during filming of his reality show, The Apprentice. Shortly before Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet CBS News reported that it had obtained a recording of several Trump campaign staffers apparently discussing the potential fallout of that recording.
Trump’s Tuesday comments were just his latest insulting Manigault-Newman in recent days. But this particular tweet is drawing outrage for its racialized language, with critics noting that black women have long been referred to as dogs or other animals in an effort to dehumanize them.
“How dare the president call Omarosa or any black woman a dog,” tweeted Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who notably weathered criticism from the president last year.
NBC News notes that Trump has often used “dog” as an insult, using the term to criticize figures including Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and Erick Erickson. And the latest comments about Manigault-Newman are hardly the first time the president has made derogatory remarks about women or people of color on Twitter.
Trump has also called other women dogs and “pigs” over the years, including in 2012 when he said actress Kristen Stewart had acted “like a dog” during a cheating scandal, and in 2015 when he said Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington was a “dog who wrongfully comments on me.” He has often trafficked in racialized language on Twitter and off, referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “criminals” and predominantly black countries as “shitholes.” And the president has a history of racist remarks and controversies that spans decades.
But Trump’s criticism has been particularly fierce toward black women, who lie at the intersection of these identities, with the president often framing black women he encounters as dishonest, unintelligent, and mentally unhinged. And with his latest attack on Manigault-Newman, Trump has indicated that he’s willing to escalate these attacks even further.
Trump has a well-established pattern of harshly criticizing black women
In the months since taking office, and even for years before that, President Trump has picked fights with practically everyone. But his critiques of black women, be they former attorney general Loretta Lynch, political analyst Donna Brazile, and former Obama admin official Susan Rice, have at times been especially hostile, not only for what the president himself says, but how the attacks are then amplified by his political allies and supporters.
For example, take Frederica Wilson, who found herself the target of Trump’s ire last year when she criticized the reportedly callous way the president spoke to Myeshia Johnson, a black grieving military widow, in a phone call. Trump responded by calling the politician “wacky” and by going after Johnson, saying she had been dishonest about the call. Wilson said she faced numerous death threats in the weeks following the controversy.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly later criticized Wilson, falsely accusing her taking credit for securing funding for an FBI building. The women of the Congressional Black Caucus demanded an apology from Kelly soon after, which he refused to give.
In September, the president launched several attacks against journalist Jemele Hill, who called Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders later called for Hill to be fired, while Hill was subjected to death threats and a suspension from her host position by ESPN.
More recently, the president reignited a longstanding feud with California Rep. Maxine Waters, a fierce critic of the Trump administration, by calling the House member “wacky,” “unhinged,” and “low-IQ” after claiming she incited violence during a speech in June. A recent analysis from the Guardian found that Trump’s criticism of Waters is one of his most sustained political attacks, adding that the president has already referred to Waters as “low-IQ” at least seven times this year.
As with many others on this list, Waters has faced death threats and protests in the wake of the president’s remarks. In July a group of black female political strategists and community leaders sent letters criticizing Republican and Democratic Party leadership for their lack of a response, noting that the attacks against Waters were heavily racialized and built upon a negative image of black women.
Black women who criticize Trump get painted with very similar attacks
There are common threads in many of these attacks. Trump regularly refers to the women as “wacky” or unintelligent as he did with Wilson and Waters, or he’ll note their supposed dishonesty, as he did with Johnson, the military widow. Other women, like prominent White House reporter April Ryan, have been criticized by Trump officials for their perceived rudeness or disrespect. The recent attacks on Manigault-Newman manage to include all of these criticisms.
As Crystal Marie Fleming, an associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at Stony Brook University in New York, explained for Vox in June, these attacks also rely on stereotypes of the “angry black woman,” a trope deployed to punish and delegitimize the opinions and statements of black women.
At this point, it’s become a well-established pattern for the president. “Whether it’s a knowing choice from the president or it stems from his utter lack of restraint, the attacks reflect his twin contempt for women and nonwhites,” Jamelle Bouie wrote for Slate last year. “Trump pushes back against most criticism, but when it comes from a prominent black woman, the response is more aggressive, more interested in making a spectacle — and an example.”
Trump’s racialized attacks have been deflected by black women affiliated with him. Manigault-Newman repeatedly argued that the president was not racist during her time in the White House, though she apparently now believes otherwise.
As Manigault-Newman finds herself on the receiving end of those attacks, Trump’s behavior toward black women is once again a topic of discussion. But this time, the president doesn’t have her around to defend him.