By Lauren Victoria Burke – NNPA Newswire
A panel discussion on police brutality, that featured verbal sparring between White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman and veteran journalist Ed Gordon, silent protests and heckling, overshadowed the celebration of excellence in the media at the National Association of Black Journalists’ annual convention in New Orleans.
Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison and the second-highest ranking African American staffer in the Trump Administration, was a late addition to the panel, titled “Black and Blue: Raising Our Sons, Protecting Our Communities.”
Manigault-Newman lost her father and her brother to street violence in Youngstown, Ohio, according to NBCNews.com.
After learning that Manigault-Newman would join the session, two panelists, Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times Magazine and Jelani Cobb, a journalism professor and staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, declined to participate; Jones was slated to moderate the panel.
Cobb later tweeted that he learned about Manigault-Newman’s addition to the panel shortly before the event started and that it was not clear, if she would speak about policies of the Trump Admin-istration. Critics of the group’s decision to invite Manigault-Newman, have argued that such strict guidelines for the conversation were particularly troublesome at a convention of journalists. A handful of activists and journalists, who attended the panel, stood and turned their backs to the stage in protest over Manigault-Newman’s appearance.
Gordon stepped in, at the last minute, to moderate the panel discussion.
“The event began cordially, but within minutes, it devolved into a shouting match between Ms. Manigault-Newman and Mr. Gordon,” The New York Times reported. “She interrupted him, accusing him several times of attacking her as Mr. Gordon pressed for answers about her role in the Trump administration and changes to criminal justice policies under Attorney General Sessions.”
In video clips from the panel, that were widely shared on social media, Gordon and Manigault-Newman can be seen pacing back and forth on stage talking over each other, as audience members heckled and jeered the former reality TV star’s reactions to Gordon’s questions. Though the NABJ convention was in New Orleans, the scene resembled a reunion show episode for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
At one point, Manigault-Newman told Gordon “shame on you” in response to a question and told one of the panelists “just Google me,” when asked about her general work.
“I did my best to keep this as civil as possible,” said Gordon.
Manigault-Newman stood and responded: “Don’t be aggressive, ask your question, but don’t lecture me.”
Manigault-Newman said that she could not disclose, confidential conversations with the president, an often-used line by Trump’s White House staffers.
“Ms. Manigault-Newman did say she thought it was wrong for Mr. Trump to make those comments,” that suggested that police officers should abuse suspects, according to The New York Times.
When NABJ President Sarah Glover stood before the audience to explain the strict parameters of Manigault-Newman’s appearance, which did not include policy questions impacting African Americans, the groans of exasperation grew even louder.
In the middle of the onstage fiasco, several audience members, notably journalists Roland Martin of TV One and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post, walked out.
“This Omarosa appearance is beneath NABJ,” Lowery tweeted shortly after the debacle.
During this year’s convention, the NABJ honored April Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, with the coveted Journalist of the Year Award. Rochelle Riley, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, received the Ida B. Wells Award.