Cast a line into this sea of quotes, and you’re sure to fish out a choice one. “Who leaked that to you?” Scaramucci asked Lizza about a scoop regarding Sean Hannity and former Fox News executive Bill Shine coming to dine with him and the president at the White House. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus — if you want to leak something — he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” A gem: “You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.” And more: “O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” Scaramucci said about himself. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the f–––ing Department of Justice.”
Oops, the Erik Wemple Blog almost neglected to edit down that last “f–––ing.” “The Mooch” is prolific.
Trained eyes foresaw something this cataclysmic. Starting back on Wednesday night, Scaramucci has been engulfed in a media spectacle that could germinate only in a Trump administration. After Lizza tweeted about his dinner scoop, Scaramucci called him in search of his sources. No competent communications professional does such a thing, but Scaramucci tried. On CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday, Scaramucci called in to the show and apologized for calling Lizza “unpatriotic” in that phone conversation, saying it was all in jest.
Meanwhile, Lizza got to work writing up the interview:
Being the White House communications director, Scaramucci feels compelled to communicate, consequences be damned. So instead of prudently shutting up following publication of the Lizza interview, he did what his boss does. He tweeted:
Over and over, Scaramucci has declared his belief and commitment to the First Amendment, to the role of a free press in the United States. When he was chatting with Lizza on CNN on Thursday morning, he said, “When I was speaking to you last night, Ryan, I said it was unpatriotic that you weren’t telling me who the leakers were. I was on a plane landing in New York. I have to go visit my mom. And so you may have caught it the wrong way. I was teasing you and it was sarcastic. It was one Italian to another. It wasn’t me trying to get you to say — if you could give me a sense of who they are because I have a responsibility to the president of the United States. When you said you didn’t, I totally respect your journalism and your integrity.”
Scaramucci said that on Thursday morning. By Thursday night, he was trashing that same reporter on Twitter — signaling to his 792,000 followers that Lizza was somehow untrustworthy, or something. So the White House communications director, we are learning, isn’t averse to switching up his message.
What trust could Lizza have possibly betrayed? Could he have taken an off-the-record call and placed it on the record? In another “New Day” appearance on Friday, he dispensed with any such notion, saying: “I had a conversation with Anthony yesterday afternoon. I didn’t want to post the piece until I had a chance to talk to him. In that conversation Anthony made 100 percent clear to me, ‘Look I understand that interview was not off the record, totally within your rights to publish it.’ ”
Perhaps another tweet from Scaramucci would clear up just how Lizza proved untrustworthy — though it would surely dig a deeper hole for “The Mooch,” who today celebrates his one-week mark in the job. By talking and tweeting and then talking and tweeting some more, Scaramucci has placed himself in the sort of bind that “smooth” operators avoid: If his remarks were on the record — and indeed we trust Lizza’s version of events — he’s a scheming, swearing, insecure, vengeful, vacuous, incompetent, obsequious and clueless man. If you believe the conversation, somehow, was off the record, he’s a leaker.