Stephanie Grisham out as Trump's press secretary without ever holding a briefing

Grisham will return to East Wing, where she became close to first lady while running her communications office

John T. Bennett
Washington
Tuesday 07 April 2020 16:33
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Stephanie Grisham agrees that people who oppose Donald Trump, including Republicans, are 'scum'

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is leaving her post after never holding a traditional White House press briefing in the more than nine months she was on the job, multiple news outlets reported Tuesday.

Ms Grisham will return to the East Wing to be First Lady Melania Trump's chief of staff, CNN and ABC News reported.

A former Trump 2016 campaign staffer, she came into the West Wing first as a deputy to Sean Spicer, who eventually stepped down as Donald Trump's first press secretary. From there, she ended up the first lady's press secretary and communications director, where the two became close.

When White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced her departure, Mr Trump opted to replace one loyalist with another by putting Ms Grisham in that role and the vacant post of communications director. Ms Sanders had been doing most functions of both positions since Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive, was fired from the communications director post.

Ms Grisham acknowledged a reluctance to revive daily White House press briefings, noting it was Mr Trump who ordered Ms Sanders to end them. The president never gave such an order, though he now leads a daily White House press briefing on the coronavirus outbreak.

Press relations under Ms Sanders deteriorated steadily, especially due to some of her final briefings. They did not recover under Ms Grisham, who opted to deal with reporters one-on-one, rather than in large briefings.

Several White House reporters, before the pandemic cut off access to the West Wing, recently tried to remember ever seeing Ms Grisham in the James S. Brady Briefing Room after she became Mr Trump's top spokeswoman. None could.

She once agreed with a television questioner that anyone who disagrees with Mr Trump is "scum," and levied harsh attacks on Democrats and any Trump critic.

In short, Ms Grisham never grew into the job, as some journalists who had worked with her while covering Ms Trump had hoped she would.

But she did interact with journalists via phone calls and emails, with reporters on the beat often saying she was often more accessible than Ms Sanders.

Her public statements were limited to her tweets, which almost always gave scheduling updates or lavished praise on her boss, or Fox News appearances. She did those from the Trump-friendly network's Washington studios, meaning she never left open the possibility for one of the South Lawn driveway gaggles that other officials conduct regularly.

That list includes White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Ms Grisham's principal deputy, Hogan Gidley, did more of those informal gaggles before the pandemic, but has been less of a public face since the outbreak; Mr Gidley often focuses on Democrats in his public remarks, making him somewhat ill-suited for the camera during a national crisis. That could dissuade new White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows from giving him the job permanently.

Ms Grisham's West Wing departure only adds to what Brookings Institute and other experts have called record turnover in Mr Trump's White House. He has said he expects all staffers to eventually leave.

Though she was accessible via phone and email, in-person interactions were rare with reporters. Many on the beat will remember her tenure best by her usually closed office door.

Griffin Connolly contributed to this report.

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