Rumors continued to swirl this week that President Donald used the “N-word” several times on tape. Georgia state Sen. Michael Williams is fine with that.
“It would matter [to me] as an individual,” Williams, who is white, told CNN’s Victor Blackwell of the alleged recordings on Sunday. “It would not necessarily matter to me as the person who is running our country.”
“He has his personal beliefs, his personal ideas,” Williams continued. “But I truly believe he is able to separate those from how he is running the country.”
Trump has been dogged since the presidential campaign by allegations he used the N-word, and possibly other racial slurs, during outtakes of his former reality TV show The Apprentice. At least three people in a position to know came forward in 2016 to say such tapes exist — actor Tom Arnold, former Apprentice producer Bill Pruitt, and producer Chris Nee.
Former White House staffer and The Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman threw fuel on those flames this week, when The Guardian published an excerpt from her tell-all book, Unhinged, in which she claims three sources told her about the tapes, which she has not seen.
The president, however, pushed back hard.
“I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have,” Trump tweeted Monday in response to the allegation. “She made it up.”
Manigault Newman’s description of the tapes, and how she first heard them, hasn’t always been consistent. But she released a secret audio recording Tuesday that appears to show her strategizing in October 2016 about how to spin the alleged recording with fellow campaign aides Katrina Pierson and Lynne Patton.
“No, he said it,” a person who appears to be Pierson says on the tape, after another person on the call says Trump denied it. “He is embarrassed by it.”
On Saturday, CNN host Blackwell pressed Williams, the Georgia state senator, to clarify his comments about Trump and the N-word.
“What is the distinction you’re creating here with the N-word where there’s one situation where I have a problem with it but there’s another situation where it’s OK?” Blackwell asked.
“No, no. I always have a problem with the use of it,” Williams replied. “I don’t have a problem with Donald Trump having used it in the past, as my president. I would always say using the N-word is wrong and is bad and should never be accepted in our society,” Williams continued.
“But just because he might have done it years ago, not as our president, doesn’t mean that we need to continue to berate him because he used it.”
That answer drew a look of stunned disbelief from Blackwell, who is black. Williams filled the silence by claiming the 72-year-old president grew up in an era when the racial slur was more accepted than it is today.
“To hold somebody accountable for something he did years ago, as our president today, I think it sets a bad precedent,” Williams added.
It’s not the first time Williams has courted controversy on racial issues. During his unsuccessful run for Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial primary this year, Williams drove across the state in a “deportation bus” emblazoned with slogans like “Follow me to Mexico” and “Danger! Murderers, rapists, child molestors [sic], and other criminals on board.”
“We’re going to implement my 287G deportation plan to fill this bus with illegals to send them back to where they came from,” Williams said while standing next to the bus in a campaign ad that has since been taken offline.
“We’re not just gonna’ track ’em and watch ’em roam around our state. We’re gonna’ put ’em on this bus and send ’em home.”
Several restaurants and chains where Williams had scheduled campaign stops — without their permission — banned the bus from their property, and pro-immigration activists protested its appearances.
The gubernatorial primary was held on May 22. Williams came in dead last.