What I wouldn’t give to not talk about Omarosa Manigault Newman ever again! I would love to write about Ryan Reynolds’s Tonight Show appearance, which was little more than protracted sponcon for his gin brand. I’d love to talk about Matt Groening’s return to late night after an 11-year absence. Michael Che did promo for the Emmys and talked about all the movies he hasn’t seen but refused to address whether or not he had seen Nanette. This was supposed to be Ariana Grande’s week! But instead, the story that dominated late night this week was Omarosa’s book, Omarosa’s tapes, Omarosa’s feud with the president.
If nothing else, this news cycle has given us multiple talk show hosts eating paper. Omarosa’s book claims that she once caught Trump eating a piece of paper, possibly destroying evidence of a note with sensitive material. Most hosts had a crack about the paper-eating incident, but Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon actually reenacted it. Meyers’s paper-eating far outclassed Fallon’s, who appeared to use rice paper like a coward.
It makes sense that Omarosa pulled so much focus this week. The book is full of juicy deets, she’s been hitting all the news shows so there’s plenty of clips to cut to, and the, “Who are you going to believe: a crazy reality star or Omarosa?” jokes write themselves. Omarosa is strategically releasing a new tape every day so that she can remain in the news cycle every night. She is playing us, and we are letting her. The news shows have to talk about her because she is timing bombshells better than Nuremberg. The talk shows have to talk about her because the news talked about her, and I have to talk about her because the talk shows did. It’s Omarosas all the way down. Every aspect of the story is salacious, including the fact that the NDAs Trump has everyone around him sign are borderline useless, as Stephen Colbert pointed out on The Late Show Tuesday night.
Ms. Manigault Newman seems to have written Unhinged geared toward TV appearances. The one thing she knows how to do is survive a TV edit. Reality TV looks for pithy one-liners, fights, and drawn-out arguments over whether someone did or did not say something. Who could forget Vanderpump Rules’s “hooked up” vs. “hung out” debacle last season? The “Trump is on tape saying the N-word” story is no more relevant or refined of a debate. As Roy Wood Jr. pointed out on The Daily Show Wednesday night, we don’t need a tape to prove that Trump is racist. We can look at his actions as a landlord, his fearmongering over the Central Park Five, or his prominent role in the birther movement. Saying the N-word is honestly small potatoes compared to demanding the president’s birth certificate, but it’s a reality TV version of proof. In a world where the Bachelorette’s beau can spin his bigoted Instagram activity as relationship drama, we need cold hard footage of racist attitudes to prove an allegation of racism. Soundbite or it didn’t happen.
Also inserting himself into this narrative is Tom Arnold, who has a new show premiering on Viceland next month about his search for these tapes. They’re like Bigfoot: Those who believe it believe it, and those who don’t, don’t. Nary a fact shall cause anyone to switch camps. A very stuffy-nosed Arnold went on Jimmy Kimmel Live and almost immediately launched into a tirade against Mark Burnett. “You are really fired up,” said Kimmel. “What have you gotten yourself into?” Arnold covered a lot of territory, such as the fact that Burnett has not come forward to deny the existence of this tape as well as Arnold’s belief that Burnett should use his Survivor location scouts to find the deported parents of separated children. Arnold also highlighted how bonkers it is that the power players in this political story are men like Mark Burnett and Tom Arnold. “The fact that I am involved in such a big way with the president,” he said, “tells you that he should not be president.”
That’s the crux of this issue, isn’t it? We’re in the dumbest timeline. Truly galling acts of brutality exist next to extreme moments of idiocy. Not since Dadaism has art needed to be so stupid to point out the horrors of our age. Seth Meyers fired a dog to call out Trump’s obviously racist use of “dog” to insult Omarosa.
For what it’s worth, Omarosa’s deft handling of the news cycle has not resulted in boffo box office for her book. Unhinged debuted at number five on Amazon’s best-seller list. Colbert pointed out that her book was already 30 percent off at Barnes & Noble. If some people have a face for radio, it would appear that Omarosa Manigault Newman has a prose style for television. Maybe next week she will run out of secret tapes to leak (not likely) and we can all give Ariana Grande’s “Carpool Karaoke” the attention it deserves.