As anyone with even a vague love for ridiculous C-listers can tell you, Celebrity Big Brother is supposed to be silly, sometimes volatile fun. Just look at who has recently graced CBB, originally a bonkers U.K. confection, with their unhinged presence: Bachelor Nation’s “Bad Chad” Johnson, gravel-voiced Mob Wives alum Renee Graziano, and reality-turned-Snapchat stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt. When CBS initially announced it was planning to bring the British reality show format stateside, it was a reason to celebrate. Who doesn’t want to see what happens when one-hit wonders, Bachelorette alums, and various endearing celebrity trainwrecks are trapped in one mansion together?
Then, CBB went and announced its cast list on Sunday night. Amid pitch-perfect additions like “rockstar” Mark McGrath, ex-Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville, and American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth was one glaring problem: so-called “TV personality” Omarosa Manigault. A few years ago, Manigault’s appearance would have made total sense. But, now, the former Apprentice villain’s return to reality stardom feels like yet another attempt by the television powers that be to normalize the casualties of Donald Trump’s tumultuous White House administration. It's an attempt that is seriously irritating and problematic.
Television’s bizarre new habit began in earnest in September 2017, when former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and his podium rolled out onto the Emmys stage to do a bit about audience size. It was obviously a reference to the time, about nine months prior, when Spicer full-throatedly lied to the American people about his boss’ inauguration crowd size. At that point, Spicer couldn’t have cared less about denting what counts as “truth” in the country — “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” he said of the famously sparse crowds, moments after pledging not to purposefully lie — and was only concerned with soothing a popularity-obsessed Trump’s ego.
While the A-list audience at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater was shocked and seemingly delighted, with Veep’s Anna Chlumsky throwing a meme-friendly “WTF?!” look to an unknown friend, the moment left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. After all, the moment Spicer was poking fun at actually kicked off the Trump regime's lengthy assault on truth and facts, which are the cornerstones of a healthy democracy. Spicer is also the same person who would go on to defend Adolf Hitler as a way to take shots at Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and give concentration camps the highly-sanitized and friendly-sounding title of “Holocaust centers.”
Although the ex press secretary has admitted he “regrets” decisions like these, he’s never recognized or apologized for their greater effect on politics, like creating the possibility of facts being debatable, or the many dangerous policies his administration has thrown on the world at large, from dashing international climate change agreements to putting women's lives at risk with the Global Gag Rule. Without that, Spicer doesn’t really deserve to be embraced by the public.
The same can be said about Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived White House communications director, who co-hosted The View days after Spicer’s Emmys appearance and seems more like a Veep character than a person. Like Spicer, Scaramucci was treated to a sweet, kid gloves roasting for his most newsworthy White House antics. Instead of watching the New Yorker roll out on a podium, The Mooch was lovingly confronted with an impersonation of himself by View staple Mario Cantone.
After watching the clip, it’s easy to see Scaramucci as a fun-loving guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. How cute! But, again, he’s actually the kind of person who repeatedly announced he “loved” Donald Trump, a man determined to build a racist border wall, ban transgender people from military, and advocate for grabbing women by the genitals. Anthony Scaramucci isn’t a cutesy fun-loving dude — until he recognizes that, television shouldn’t desperately try to convince us otherwise.
And, this brings us to Omarosa Manigault’s re-re-branding as a TV personality, allowing her to slip off her history as a Trump ride-or-die and his Office Of Public Liaison communications director (she "resigned to pursue other opportunities" in December, and officially left as of January 20). We have to remember this is a woman who unsettlingly said ahead of the 2016 election, “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump.” That certainly sounds like the early branding for the 45th presidency’s authoritarian leanings, which continue to this day. If that’s not bad, enough, Manigault went on to say, “It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.” Those are not the words of a zany reality star; they’re the monologuing of a Bond villain. Except, this time, they’re real and from an actual politico.
While Manigault’s actual time in the White House is a massive question mark, it’s undeniable whatever work she did to was to defend and support the President — going so far as to allegedly physically threaten critic April Ryan — leaving her complicit in his many egregious or dangerous policies. And, it’s not like she wanted to leave Trump’s side, as it was well-reported that following her alleged firing, the former Apprentice villain supposedly attempted to enter the White House residence to fight for her job. That means, if it were up to Manigault, she would have still been standing by the president, an alleged sexual predator, during his reported “shithole” comments and that time he officially denounced feminism.
This is not the kind of person TV needs to normalize into a regular old harmless reality TV baddie. Omarosa Manigault is not a regular old harmless reality TV baddie.
It’s understandable television wants the draw of the Trump administration’s most notorious exiles, since they’re bound to draw eyeballs. We all know eyeballs mean ad dollars, and that’s what makes the TV world spin. But, until these people actually answer for their misdeeds, or at least genuinely acknowledge there were real misdeeds in the first place, we shouldn't be tuning into their undeserved public relations rehabilitation schemes.
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