Omarosa Manigault, recently named assistant to the president and director of communications in the Office of Public Liaison for the Trump administration, has promised the first press interview with President Trump to Benjamin Chavis, president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, according to sources who attended a private meeting with the Trump transition team Jan. 4.
Manigault’s promise of the interview was disclosed after a representative of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) stressed the importance of Black reporters interfacing with the president.
Both Chavis and NABJ representatives participated in the closed-door meeting at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in northwest D.C.
“When NABJ said we need to make sure that somebody black interviews the president first, [Omarosa] said, ‘Oh no. Ben Chavis and I have already spoken and he’s going to be the first interview,’” recounted veteran civil rights leader Barbara Arnwine, president/CEO of the Transformative Justice Coalition, in an interview this week.
Arnwine said Chavis then “acknowledged that that was correct — that they had already been in touch with him about it.”
No working press was allowed inside the meeting, the meeting, billed as a “listening session” with Manigault and other senior members of the Trump transition team, drew dozens of black leaders from approximately 30 different mostly nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations.
Chavis, while giving no specific details, provided a general statement.
“2017 marks the 190th year of the Black Press in America. [Our] tradition has been to engage whoever is in the White House on behalf of black America. There are issues that affect our quality of life and we cannot afford to be excluded from the position and the power that would impact the quality of life of blacks,” Chavis said.
The interview would mark a departure from the Obama treatment of black newspaper reporters who denied numerous requests for one-on-one interviews with the NNPA after this reporter’s interview with him on the eve of his inauguration. Obama did grant interviews to black radio talk show hosts the Rev. Al Sharpton and Joe Madison. Journalist Jeff Johnson also interviewed the president on BET amidst racial unrest following police shootings of blacks two years ago.
It remains unclear whether Chavis’s interview with Trump will reveal what sensitivities Trump may have to African-American issues. So far he has only spoken of dealing with the high homicide rates in black communities and building the infrastructure in “inner cities.” He has said little or nothing in favor of civil rights agendas or of police shootings and abuses of blacks.