White House aide Omarosa Manigault’s panel appearance caused an uproar at the National Association of Black Journalists annual conference in New Orleans on Friday.
Manigault, director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison and an assistant to president under Donald Trump, repeatedly received jeers and groans from the crowd from her comments, many of them attempts to sidestep questions about her role in the Trump White House, according to social media posts from numerous journalists in attendance.
The panel, titled "Black and Blue: Raising Our Sons, Protecting Our Community," featured appearances from relatives of prominent victims of police violence, including Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, and Sandra Sterling, the aunt of Alton Sterling, alongside Omarosa and others.
The discussion was frequently derailed, however, as Manigault engaged in several heated exchanges with others onstage.
At one point, Manigault was pressed on Trump’s July comments that seemed to encourage police violence during arrests. At first Manigault hesitated, according to multiple reporters in attendance, before affirming she felt the comments had been out of line.
“I’m not going to stand here and defend everything about Donald Trump,” Omarosa said, adding that she has personally invited law enforcement officials to the White House to discuss the matter.
Addressing police officers in Long Island last month, Trump quipped that they shouldn’t be "too nice" when dealing with "thugs."
"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,," Trump told the audience of police officers.
As the debate raged on Friday in New Orleans, journalists took to Twitter to express their dismay at the chaos onstage.
"[T]his omarosa appearance is beneath NABJ," tweeted Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post.
this omarosa appearance is beneath NABJ
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 11, 2017
"This Omarosa panel at #NABJ17 is a train wreck. More in the audience standing and turning their backs. Others just walking out," posted NPR host Sam Sanders.
This Omarosa panel at #NABJ17 is a train wreck. More in the audience standing and turning their backs. Others just walking out.
— Sam Sanders (@samsanders) August 11, 2017
"This is insane. Like insane," tweeted Yamiche Alcindor of The New York Times.
This is insane. Like insane.
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 11, 2017
Manigault’s panel appearance had caused a stir even prior to Friday. According to a Page 6 report, several prominent journalists, including The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb, pulled out of the panel in light of her invite. The eventual moderator Bounce TV’s Ed Gordon, had some of the fieriest exchanges with Manigault onstage.
The National Association of Black Journalists did not respond to a request for comment.