There Is Likely No ‘N-Word’ Tape…and Trump Benefits From the Rumor Being Taken Seriously


It has been yet another long and exhausting week of news. When Omarosa is by far the biggest “newsmaker” of the last seven days and the president’s personal lawyer, a former national hero, calling the FBI Director his client rehired a “crazy liar” while totally changing the president’s story on national TV doesn’t even get really noticed, you know that we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Of the many Omarosa-related obsessions among the news media during this cycle, the one which may have gotten the most attention has been her allegation that there is a tape of Donald Trump using the “N-word” from his days as the host of The Apprentice on NBC. Based on the totality of the evidence on this topic to date, and basic logic, it is easy to conclude the no such tape actually exists and that this entire discussion, assuming there is no tape, is actually quite good for Trump.

The first problem with this story, which has always had a very “urban-legendy” feel to it, is that Omarosa is an inherently untrustworthy source. This is especially so on a subject like this which would provide her the potential opportunity for her explain why she turned on Trump (the timing of which doesn’t wash with her own narrative about the tape).

The second issue is that Omarosa’s story of how she learned about this tape, which should be extremely simple, has several different versions,  none of which are consistent with how this tape has somehow remained hidden (even almost two years after Trump was elected president.) For this tape to exist there MUST be an excellent explanation for how it has not yet come out, and that pretty much requires the show’s former producer, Trump’s friend Mark Burnett, being the only person on the planet who had access to it.

But that is not remotely what Omarosa is claiming.

We already had a very similar situation with regard to the infamous Access Hollywood tape, which was somehow bottled up, highly suspiciously, until a month before a presidential election. According to Billy Bush, that tape was apparently an open secret at NBC even though it clearly was never going to air, just like a theoretical tape of incriminating outtakes from The Apprentice.

And yet that tape was released at an extremely strategic moment. What is the explanation for this tape not following a similar path?

Some may claim that Omarosa has presented audio evidence of the tape’s existence, but upon close inspection that was actually rather unimpressive. While it is fairly obvious that the Trump staffers who were discussing the “N-word Tape” believe that it may indeed exist, that is far from proving that there actually IS one.

The “smoking gun” is supposedly Trump campaign aide Katrina Pierson interrupting the conversation to say “He said it. No. He said it. He’s embarrassed.” This, however, was in the context of how to spin the tape if it ever came out.

While Pierson was caught in an apparent lie about this subject just before Omarosa released her tape, it is more than possible that she was theorizing what their public statement would be should the nation ever hear Trump say that word. For that not to be the correct interpretation, it would require her to have had a direct conversation with Trump about this tape, which on its face would be astounding and would have obviously assured her of a plum White House job, which she never got.

People telling similar, but significantly inconsistent, stories of an event, and discussing things as true when they have no direct knowledge that really they are, is exactly how urban legends begin and gain traction. The Trump “N-word” tape could be real, but it also has almost all the hallmarks of an urban legend.

Trump seems like he might be a racist and is prone to say virtually anything. While taping The Apprentice he was probably around live cameras for many hours with nothing to do. And what’s the worst thing a white man can say in America today? The N-word. It is not difficult to see how a rumor like this could get started, especially when there is an insatiable desire on the part of about half the country to see Trump finally brought down (I have previously written that it is possible that a similar phenomenon caused the “pee tape” to get into the Steele dossier).

Hilariously, and all too typically, the best indication that the Moby Dick of Trump tapes (it would be wrong to refer that way to the “pee tape,” especially given Trump’s small hands) may not be fictional is the response of the president and his press secretary to all of this. Trump comically tweeted that Burnett has called him to assure him there was no “N-word tape,” which was kind of like bragging to your wife’s friends that your girlfriend has assured you that there are no tapes of you committing adultery.

Sarah Sanders then made the very odd choice of deciding this was suddenly the topic about which should not lie and refused to guarantee that there is no such tape. While it always dangerous to credit Team Trump with way more strategic thought than they are really capable of, there is a chance that this all by some sort of political design.

Most observers agree that we are already so polarized and desensitized by the Trump presidency that even an “N-word tape” wouldn’t really change much of anything, and might even energize his “Cult 45” base of support. But if there is no such tape, this entire storyline is clearly going to help the president.

After all, if no tape emerges — why would it suddenly now? — it feeds into his “Fake News!” narrative, helps to further discredit the media for their “Trump Derangement Syndrome” because they will believe literally anything bad about him, and makes it even more difficult to get outraged about the things he actually does say because, heck, at least he didn’t drop the N-word!

From now on, it is not an exaggeration that every day that does not bring with it a tape of the president of the United States saying the “N-word” is a good day for the man holding that office. Good job, everyone!

John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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