President-elect Donald Trump named Republican National Committee official Sean Spicer as White House press secretary, filling what is likely to be a challenging position given Trump’s sometimes hostile relationship with the media and his propensity to bypass staff to communicate directly with the public on Twitter.
Spicer, the RNC’s communications director since 2011 and chief strategist since 2015, has become an increasingly visible presence on Trump’s team since the GOP nominee won the election on Nov. 8. Noted for his combative television interviews, he helps to lead daily transition news media calls and has a close relationship with RNC chairman Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff.
Trump also announced that longtime aide Hope Hicks, his campaign press secretary, will serve as director of strategic communications, and Dan Scavino will continue his current role as director of social media. Jason Miller, who leads the transition calls, will be communications director.
Spicer, Miller, Hicks and Scavino will all hold the title of assistant to the president, in addition to their other titles.
“Sean, Hope, Jason and Dan have been key members of my team during the campaign and transition,” Trump said in a statement. “I am excited they will be leading the team that will communicate my agenda that will Make America Great Again.”
The announcement left open how Spicer, Miller and Hicks will divide up the communications work. Traditionally, the White House press secretary has served as the main conduit between the president and global media through daily news conferences.
Priebus suggested last week that this practice could change in the new administration.
“Look, I think that many things have to change, and I think that it’s important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don’t really make news,” Priebus said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“And you know, even looking at things like the daily White House briefing from the press secretary, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you we’re looking at that.”
Spicer went a bit further in a recent interview with Fox News.
“I think you have to look at everything. And so I don’t know that it [the White House press briefing] needs to be daily. I don’t know that they need to be on camera. And I think that’s a view shared by a lot of former White House press secretaries, a view by some in the media, in fact, that the White House press briefings have become somewhat of a spectacle,” Spicer told anchor Megyn Kelly on Dec. 15.
The comments raised questions among transparency and press freedom advocates already concerned by limitations placed on the media by Trump’s team.