In a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she "can't guarantee" that the American people will never hear a recording of President Donald Trump saying the n-word.
Former White House senior adviser Omarosa Manigault-Newman claimed in her recently released memoir Unhinged that there is a tape of Trump using racial slurs on the set of The Apprentice. In the book, she also called him a "racist, misogynist, and bigot." On Monday, she said she heard a recording in which he used the n-word multiple times.
"Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter the n-word on a recording, in any context?" NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker asked Sanders.
.@kwelkernbc: "Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people they'll never hear Donald Trump utter 'the n word' on a recording, in any context?"— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 14, 2018
Sarah Sanders: "I can't guarantee anything... I can tell you I've never heard it." pic.twitter.com/rSDj4ctA5a
Sanders responded: "I can't guarantee anything. But I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly; I can tell you I've never heard it." She then threw out some murky statistics about giving African-Americans jobs, as though that would make up for him using the word if he used it. (She later had to correct her misleading stats on Twitter.)
The first question Welker asked was, "Sarah, did you ask the president if he's ever used the n-word?" When Sanders answered, she did a "head retreat," pulling her head down and back and giving multiple "eye shutters" (extended closing of both eyes) as well as an extended look away. She also did a "sour lips" to "retreat and block out the question and indicate it was not a question she wanted or felt comfortable with," said Wood. She said it seems like Sanders had prepared talking points for the questions she had expected about Trump's actions, but not for questions about her own actions.
In the past, I have seen her enjoy not answering a question. What's interesting to me here is that she's not enjoying it. There was some sadness underneath it, some weakness.
Patti Wood, body language expert
She then had an extended vocal filler — "Ahh" — which Wood said is "an indication of stress and possible deceit," before she responded with a talking point ("The President addressed that question directly via Twitter...") and not a direct answer.
"You see in frame-by-frame analysis that she has facial expressions of stress, including a downward look and frown that show sadness," said Wood. "I don’t always see looks of real sadness on her face; she often goes to aggression and anger as her overriding emotions."
Right before she said "I can't guarantee anything," you can see her head, the corners of her mouth, and her shoulders all turning down. "She appeared slightly defeated," said Wood. "In the past, I have seen her enjoy not answering a question. What's interesting to me here is that she's not enjoying it. There was some sadness underneath it, some weakness."
As she began to respond, she did what Wood has labeled a "dynamite blink, which is an explosive blink," followed by another "Ahh" filler. ("I can't guarantee. Ahh. Anything.") "This blink, in which she essentially banged her eyes down, indicates that the question really upset her and in that moment she couldn't control it," she said.
"Then watch her body," Wood continued. "She actually leans down in and towards the journalist asking the question, not in aggression as I have seen her do, but because she brings her face, head, and shoulders down and forward in a small supplication," which appears to communicate: "I get it. I'm sorry."
Stress, sadness, and supplication: logical responses when your boss has allegedly used the n-word on tape. Continuing to defend a president who has said and done many racist things, even if this racial slur story isn't true? Not so logical.