Want the best from VICE News in your inbox? Sign up here.Former Trump staffer and reality TV star Omarosa Manigault Newman is asking to join a lawsuit that accuses the Trump campaign of systematically underpaying women, according to documents filed Monday in U.S. district court in Florida.Alva Johnson, who worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign, first sued President Donald Trump and his campaign in February. Her lawsuit accuses him of not only kissing her without her consent but also paying her less due to her race and gender. In documents filed Monday, Manigault Newman — who led African American outreach for the campaign — alleges that she, too, was paid less than her male colleagues, even though they had similar job responsibilities.
Manigault Newman also believes that other women on the campaign were underpaid as well. She can join the lawsuit only with a judge’s permission.“After nearly 20 years inside the Beltway, working for two White Houses and countless political campaigns, I’ve never witnessed such egregious violations as I did during my time under the leadership of Donald Trump and Mike Pence,” Manigault Newman said in a statement. “I am joining this effort for women and minorities to help level the playing field in the political arena between men and women.”Outside of the top campaign staff, women who worked for the Trump campaign were paid an average of $3,865 per month, while men made $4,568, according to an expert analysis cited in the court records filed Monday.That’s an alleged wage gap of 18.2%.“When we saw that, it confirmed what we expected,” Hassan Zavareei, one of the attorneys representing Johnson, told VICE News in an interview. “But I don’t know that we expected it to be such a massive gap.”Manigault Newman specifically said she was paid less than Bryan Lanza, a deputy communications director for the campaign who now works for a private public relations company.The White House and the Trump campaign have both disputed the accusations in the original lawsuit. “The Trump campaign has never discriminated based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other basis. Any allegation suggesting otherwise is off base and unfounded,” the campaign’s national press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, told VICE News Monday.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also told the Washington Post that Johnson’s allegation about the unwanted kiss was “absurd on its face” and “directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts.” Two people who were present when the kiss allegedly happened told the Washington Post that they didn’t see it. But three members of Johnson’s family said that she told them about the incident the same day.More than a dozen women have said the president has touched them inappropriately.Johnson’s attorneys are also asking the court to let them send out notices to try to find more women whom the Trump campaign might have underpaid. Her lawyers want to turn the litigation into a collective action that could allow multiple people to combine their complaints.So far, Johnson’s legal team hasn’t spoken with other women who said they were unfairly underpaid. But Zavareei pointed out that everybody who joined the Trump campaign had to sign a broad nondisclosure agreement, and that may be stopping people from speaking up. If a judge agrees to let Johnson’s team ask former Trump staffers to come forward about gender discrimination, Zavareei said his team will argue that women no longer need to worry about the consequences of breaking that agreement, since they have a court’s approval.“The president, through his bully pulpit, has made it clear that he has nothing but contempt for working women. And the fish rots at the head,” Zavareei said. “I view it as all of our jobs to stand up to that when we have a chance and an opportunity to do that, and to show that that’s not acceptable in our society.”
Trump and Manigault Newman first worked together on the set of “The Apprentice” in 2004. After Trump won the presidency, she went on to work for his administration. She served as director of communications for the Office of the Public Liaison before leaving the White House in December 2017.Officially, Manigault Newman resigned, but sources contended that she had been fired. Months later, she went on a media blitz, where she criticized Trump, released secret recordings of conversations with Trump officials, and accused the president of using the n-word.At the time, Huckabee Sanders told reporters that she “can’t guarantee anything” when asked about whether Americans would ever hear a tape of Trump using the n-word. She also noted that he’d denied saying it, and added, “I can certainly say I’ve never heard him use that term or anything similar.”
Cover image: Omarosa Manigault Newman arrives at the premiere of "Fahrenheit 11/9" on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)