Former White House staffer, businesswoman, church pastor and bestselling author Omarosa Manigault (universally known by just her first name) forged a reputation of being one of the biggest villains of reality TV on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” She knows a thing or two about being called an “angry black woman.”
And in the case of the New York Times writer applying the “angry black woman” description to ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” executive producer Shonda Rhimes, Omarosa told TheWrap that the reference is a “libelous,” defamatory “slur.”
“I am deeply disappointed in the author,” Omarosa said. “I believe what she did is libelous and is the highest form of defamation. It undermines the incredible accomplishments Shonda has made. Calling her an ‘angry black woman’ is nothing short of defamation.”
On Friday, the controversy blew up when Shonda Rhimes took to Twitter to address being described as “an angry black woman” in a story about her newest contribution to television, this fall’s “How to Get Away With Murder.” She did so by first correcting the author, Alessandra Stanley, over the fact that Rhimes isn’t the creator of the new show. In fact, “Murder” was created by Pete Nowalk, a white male.
She then pointed out that she isn’t called “an angry black woman” when Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), “Grey’s Anatomy’s” white titular character, goes on a rant. Instead, the author minimized Rhimes’ extensive stable of characters to “Murder’s” Annalise Keating (Viola Davis), Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) on “Scandal” and Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) on “Grey’s Anatomy” — all black females.
“It really is a deliberate attempt to trivialize the accomplishments of Shonda,” Omarosa explained, “to put her in a box where she could manage the success of this woman. Shonda is phenomenal. She tried to manage, dissect and analyze her, and totally got it wrong. Once you assign that label to someone, it is very difficult to reverse that. The damage has been done.”
She added, “Now when you google Shonda, instead of seeing how many [Emmy nominations she has earned] or how many awards she’s been nominated for, you will see this slur.”
After Rhimes and her supporters weighed in on the article on Friday, the unapologetic author released a statement that argued the exec producer and others didn’t get her point and then belittled their use of Twitter.
“The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype,” said Stanley in a statement to TheWrap.
“When you are on the receiving end, it is an attack, the most important thing is how you react and respond,” Omarosa said. “I think Shonda was shocked by this attack on her integrity and reputation. It was deliberate and misleading, then the author tried to attempt to support it.”
She also said, “The New York Times tends to be provocative. What surprises me is that people don’t understand that by saying she should write a book on [being an angry black woman] is saying her whole life she has been angry. It is appalling.”
To be clear, Omarosa doesn’t think the descriptor is purely about race as it is another way to belittle a woman in charge. “They don’t need to be racial attacks they can be gender attacks,” she said.
Omarosa points out that the NYT author has placed Rhimes in a difficult position. How does one answer to being characterized as “an angry black woman” who personifies that in her characters without then living up to the description?
“You always have to take the high road because she can’t prove them right,” the reality star said. “The author has robbed her the right of getting upset about it. She can’t get pissed. It robs you the ability to have a natural reaction to things.”
“I think Shonda should allow what is happening now, which is the incredible amount of support that she’s gotten, to show that this author got it wrong,” she advised.