Does a tape of Donald Trump using the “N-word” exist? If a new recording released by Omarosa Manigault Newman is authentic, at the very least some of his aides spitballed a spin strategy if one ever emerged. CBS This Morning aired the clip, which Omarosa says included Katrina Pierson, Lynn Patton, and Jason Miller. Both Pierson and Patton denied Omarosa’s claims earlier, but the recording appears to have Pierson saying that Trump admitting using the word:

That might put a damper on the denials from Pierson, anyway — if it’s her in the conversation. CBS notes that the recording has not been authenticated, and Pierson hasn’t updated her position. She’s also not responding to the updated story either, or explaining what she meant by saying Trump was embarrassed by his use of the racial epithet.

If it’s true, though, it’s news to two media outlets that have been actively searching for evidence of it.  Trump’s former colleagues during his Apprentice days know of a lot of nasty comments from Trump, reports Asawin Suebsang of the Daily Beast, but not that one. Suebsang has been on the trail of the comment ever since Tom Arnold claimed he had been shown an out-take from the series with Trump saying it on camera:

The Daily Beast talked to six longtime Apprentice staffers (who, again, spoke on the condition of anonymity due to strict nondisclosure agreements those working on the production had to sign) about the alleged existence of this brutal “outtakes” compilation.

All of them have tabloid-ready stories to tell about The Donald. None of them could back up Arnold’s story.

“I have no idea what he is even talking about,” one Apprentice alumnus told The Daily Beast. “He had nothing on his mind except for sex and saying a lot of offensive stuff, but if there’s video compilation like bloopers on a DVD where he’s saying ‘c**t’ and [‘n-word’] then I never heard of it or… watched it.”

“I never caught wind of anything like that… [or] that going around,” another staffer said. “We would have tried to get it, for sure… But I like the idea that someone had some inflammatory tapes and chose Tom Arnold—naturally—to release them.”

HuffPost’s Yasher Ali reports that Omarosa’s story isn’t holding together very well in other ways, either:

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman told at least three longtime Donald Trump aides that a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” Troy McClain, played a tape for her in the White House that included the president saying a racial slur while he was wearing a microphone during a taping of the reality show, sources have told HuffPost. Manigault Newman told one staffer that hearing the tape was what led her to resign that evening (Dec. 12, 2017) and that she informed White House Communications Director Hope Hicks and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that she had heard the tape. But the account that Manigault Newman offered to these Trump aides is vastly different from the one she’s been offering publicly in her book and on her media tour. …

McClain, reached by phone, confirmed that he met with Manigault Newman in the White House in December 2017, while she was director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, but when McClain was asked if he played a recording for her of the president using a racial slur, he laughed and said, “You’ve got to be bullshitting me. Is this a joke?” …

A source close to Hicks said Manigault Newman did bring up the conversation she said she had with McClain about the possible existence of a tape, but that she never said that the contestant played such an audio for her. Manigault Newman approached Hicks with the information about the alleged tape after she had been fired by Kelly in the White House Situation Room.  Sources who spoke to HuffPost now believe that Manigault Newman brought up the audio in an attempt to salvage her job in the White House, especially given that she brought up the audio after she was terminated by Kelly.

The shifting accounts offered by Manigault Newman and the fact that this was brought up after her firing certainly goes toward assessing her credibility. Her book has also had credibility issues. For the moment, the White House can follow its current strategy of painting Omarosa as a disgruntled ingrate, unless and until an actual tape emerges, and probably ride this out with little damage.

Or at least they could have done so, until the Tweeter in Chief threw gasoline on the latent-bigotry fire. Trump took time out of a multi-tweet rant on the special counsel probe this morning (“17 Angry Democrats”!) to take another swipe at his former employee. Trump hailed his chief of staff for “quickly firing that dog”:

“Dog”? That’s already raising eyebrows as both a racist and sexist insult. It’s hardly the first time Trump’s used that particular insult, but he’s usually just applied it to men in the past. Nevertheless, it’s going to get in the way of the disgruntled-ex-employee defense, and might be yet another example of why Trump’s Twitter habit is not an unalloyed positive for this administration.