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Omarosa was only African-American earning the top White House salary

Omarosa Manigault Newman, ...

Posted: Dec. 15, 2017 9:25 AM
Updated: Dec. 15, 2017 9:25 AM

Omarosa Manigault Newman, a senior staffer who recently departed the White House and the only African-American drawing a top salary, said Thursday the "lack of diversity" was a challenge she grappled with.

"It has been very, very challenging being the only African-American woman in the senior staff," Manigault Newman told ABC News' "Nightline" on Thursday.

According to a July 1 salary report on White House personnel, 22 people earned the top salary

"It has been very, very challenging being the only African-American woman in the senior staff," Manigault Newman said

As top communications official at the White House Office of Public Liaison, Manigault Newman was charged with African-American outreach and said she regrets that the administration hasn't reached the level of diversity she "strove to see."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday maintained that despite Manigault Newman's departure they still have a "really diverse team."

Asked how many senior staffers in the White House are African-American now that reality television star has departed, Sanders said: "We have a really diverse team across the board at the White House, we always want to continue to grow the diversity here. We're going to continue to do that."

Sanders, asked directly in follow-up questioning, could not say how many senior staffers in the White House are African-American. The White House did not respond to subsequent CNN requests for comment.

But according to a July 1 salary report on White House personnel, 22 people (several of whom have since departed) were paid the top White House salary available, a sum of $179,700 a year. Manigault Newman was the only African-American employee in the top tier.

Sanders said that the first she heard of Manigault Newman's concerns was when she aired them on morning television shows on Thursday.

"It's something that we strive for every day, to add and grow and be more diverse and more representative of the country at large and we're going to do that," Sanders said from the podium.

She also said that Manigault Newman was not the only person in the administration charged with African-American outreach, pointing to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, as partners in the efforts.

Manigault Newman, a former "Apprentice" star, also defended President Donald Trump against criticism that he's racist.

"Yes, I will acknowledge many of the exchanges, particularly in the last six months, have been racially charged," she said. "Do we then just stop and label him as a racist? No."

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