It was a relatively simple question from NBC News’ Kristen Welker.
“Can you stand at the podium and guarantee the American people will never hear Donald Trump utter the ‘n-word’ on a recording in any context?” Welker asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during Tuesday afternoon’s briefing.
“I can’t guarantee anything,” Sanders replied, “but I can tell you that the president addressed this question directly. I can tell you that I’ve never heard it. I can also tell you that if myself or the people that are in this building serving this country every single day doing our very best to serve our country and make it better, if at any point we felt that the president was who some of his critics claim him to be, we certainly wouldn’t be here.”
Earlier in the day, President Trump responded on Twitter to claims by fired staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman that audio tape exists of him using the “n-word” during his time as host of The Apprentice. “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have. She made it up,” Trump wrote, before calling Manigault Newman a “dog.”
Another Apprentice alum, comedian Tom Arnold, also claims to have viewed the tapes of Trump using that slur in front of contestants and crew members.
After playing the excerpt of Sanders’ remarks on CNN Tuesday, host Jake Tapper called the moment “stunning,” adding, “I’m not sure why today of all days she decided that lying was something she wasn’t willing to do.”