Omarosa hawks tell-all book, as production secrets of 'The Apprentice' slip out
By Wade Paulsen, 04/08/2004
Some shows are so hot ... how hot are they? ... that they can make stars out of people like Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. That's HOT!
As Omarosa, the contestant on NBC's The Apprentice that everyone loved to hate, hawked her proposed new book (entitled, appropriately enough, The Pink Slip) on Extra TV and The Dennis Miller Show this week, the Washington Post reveals that Omarosa's job performance was no better when she served as an intern in the Clinton-Gore White House.
According to People Magazine, Omarosa burned through four administrative jobs during her two-year stint ... and left a negative impression every step of the way. As previously reported, her first job was answering Vice President Al Gore's invitations (which is generously referred to as a "scheduler/receptionist"). She then was moved to the administration's personnel office. Finally, she was exiled out of the White House to two different jobs within the Commerce Department, a Cabinet department generally so obscure that hardly anyone can name the secretary. (Can you name the current Secretary of Commerce? The answer is given later in this article.)
According to Cheryl Shavers, former undersecretary for technology at the Commerce Department, where Manigault-Stallworth worked in 2000, Omarosa "was asked to leave as quickly as possible, [because] she was so disruptive. One woman wanted to slug her."
Omarosa told the Washington Post that these stories were untrue and that one of her former colleagues at Commerce had it in for her. Gee, we have no idea why anyone would have it in for Omarosa. All we can say is that it sounds like she has a lot of experience with pink slips ... and we aren't talking about lingerie.
The NY Daily News reports that Omarosa's publicist even fired her as a client. According to the report, Omarosa delayed the taping of a June episode of Soap Talk on SoapNet because she refused to sign the standard release form for guests on the show. Although she ultimately did sign, her PR advisor, Shannon Barr, walked off the set and refused to continue to work with her. When even your own PR flacks won't defend you any longer, you know you've hit bottom.
By the way, in the ongoing controversy over Omarosa's previous claim that fellow Apprentice contestant Ereka Ventrini called her the "n-word" -- a claim strenuously denied by Ereka -- the appearance this week of the booted Apprentice contestants and Donald Trump on the Oprah Winfrey show served, if anything, to keep the kettle boiling. The NY Daily News reports that Ereka was furious when Oprah raised the topic with only Omarosa and Trump onstage, while Ereka was "fighting to speak" from the audience. Oprah's representatives deny that her handling of this issue was biased toward Omarosa, even though Ereka claims that Oprah "cut off" her response.
The negative publicity continuing to be generated by Omarosa's claim, illustrated by two more articles this week, one from the Globe and Mail and one from Richard Roeper of the Chicago Tribune, has Ereka investigating a lawsuit against Omarosa for slander. We applaud any effort to get this issue out of the tabloids and have it resolved according to blackletter law.
To digress for a moment, here are the essential elements of Ereka's potential lawsuit for slander:
• a false and defamatory statement (a defamatory statement is one that puts someone in a bad light) about another person;
• "published" (which means made to at least one third party);
• known to be false by the speaker (or, sometimes, spoken with reckless disregard for the truth);
• that either causes "special harm" (actual damages) or is "slanderous per se";
• and, perhaps (depending upon whether appearing on a reality-TV show makes you a "public figure"), made with actual malice.
Normally, a statement is "slanderous per se" if it (i) says that you committed a crime, (ii) imputes that you have an offensive or loathesome disease (e.g., AIDS or, in the old cases, leprosy), (iii) tends to injure you in trade, business or reputation, or (iv) alleges seriously immoral behavior on your part. It appears that Ereka could allege that Omarosa's statement was "slanderous per se" because it injured her reputation (standard iii), as shown in the above articles. We doubt that accusing someone of a racial slur rises to the level of "seriously immoral" behavior (standard iv) legally, but the OJ jury and the columnists above seem to disagree with us.
Ereka has no chance of proving "actual damages" from Omarosa's comments based upon her own statements about the job offers she is receiving. Thus, if her lawyers aren't certain that they can prove that Omarosa's statement is slanderous per se, or if they think that they have to prove that Omarosa had actual malice, Ereka would never file suit. Why? Because Ereka could lose the suit on those issues without the court ever getting to the truth or falsity of Omarosa's statement -- but the general public would see an Omarosa victory as proof that Ereka really said the "n-word" to her.
We should point out that this list of requirments to prove slander is the reason that so many obviously false statements made by opportunistic people who should know better go unpunished. Most people fingered by such statements have a hard time proving "actual damages," and they do not want to sue and lose.
At least Ereka still has Mark Burnett strongly in her corner. The Newark Star-Ledger reports that, during a media conference call to plug the final two episodes, Burnett "laughed off" the charge that he deliberately suppressed footage of Ereka using racial slurs toward Omarosa. "How big would my ratings be if I did have that (footage)? Do you think if I did have that, I wouldn't put that on TV? While it's an awful thing, it is real television, and awful things would be put on. On my other show, I showed the pig being killed, the hands being burned, people quitting -- bad things."
Actually, Mark, we think the more appropriate analogies are the Ghandia-Ted "grinding" during Survivor: Thailand and the Richard-Susan incident during Survivor: All-Stars. That said, we find ourselves imagining what the ratings for the "recap" edition of The Apprentice would have been if NBC had been able to advertise it as showing "the truth" about Omarosa's allegations ... and we cannot imaging Mark Burnett withholding ANY footage that would get those kinds of ratings.
(Give up? The Secretary of Commerce in the Bush Administration is Donald L. Evans.)
However, the attention to Omarosa has led to a cracking in the veil of secrecy that surrounds most Mark Burnett reality-competition productions. The NY Post reports that an upcoming TV Guide article will reveal a number of secrets about the show. For example:
• The booted contestants take the taxi to ... a nearby hotel, where they remained for the rest of the series (since, as Mark Burnett learned after Gretchen returned home early during the first Survivor, your neighbors notice ... and report ... if you weren't gone for very long). Bowie Hogg, booted in the fourth episode, said that he got to have "a free month in New York City on Donald Trump and Mark Burnett."
Thus, Ereka and Omarosa actually had more time to build up their dislike for one another while cooped up together after their back-to-back boots. According to Ereka, the booted contestants "went to dinners, movies, played paint ball...." We would have loved to witness the paint ball game, especially if Ereka and Omarosa were on opposing teams.
• The travel bags that the contestants bring with them to the boardroom (which we already knew was a TV set, not the real boardroom of The Trump Organization) contain only enough clothes for a day or two. The production staff actually fetches the remainder of each contestants' voluminous wardrobe and brings it to the hotel.
• Since the suite, like the boardroom, is a "made-for-TV creation," it is actually located on the same floor as the boardroom. Thus, the elevator ride "up to the suite" for the surviving contestants is completely staged.
Finally, last but not least, the previously-discussed lingerie photo shoot of Ereka, Kristi Frank, Katrina Campins and Amy Henry for the May issue of FHM Magazine will appear on newsstands on Tuesday, April 13. Included among the sexy pictures are some comments from the women about the events of the show, including this one by Katrina about Omarosa:
"Before my confrontation with Omarosa, I heard she had pushed a cameraman. That's another reason I was furious with her -- I was very close with production. If you're sick of the cameras, don't sign up for a reality television show. People were accusing me of being violent with her? That's because they didn't see her push the cameraman two seconds earlier."
Uh, Katrina, if this quote is accurate, YOU didn't see her push the cameraman either.
Women looking to appear on The Apprentice 2 (or 3) might want to keep this quote of Kristi's in mind: "There was a lot more drinking on the show than you saw. Sometimes they wouldn't feed us and we'd have drinks. I think they'd hold off on serving the food because [when we were] delirious and wasted, we would say anything."
Meet the new Mark Burnett formula for ratings success: get the women drunk.