The problem with that sort of lofty language is that Spicer and Sanders invalidated it with their own actions: Their lying on behalf of the president removed the pinnacles and the honors once associated with this storied White House position. And by the time Sanders left, she’d already gone months without holding a White House press briefing — traditionally the cornerstone of the position.
Now we have Stephanie Grisham, who has extended Sanders’s abandonment of the press briefings and added a twist of her own to the art of presidential flattery. In late October, former Trump chief of staff John F. Kelly said that he’d warned Trump not to hire a “yes man” as a chief of staff, or he’d end up being impeached.
Well, that couldn’t stand. In a statement to CNN, Grisham said, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”
Another instance of sycophancy came after this tweet from Trump:
The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019
Asked on the Oct. 24 edition of “Fox & Friends” whether the president regretted the tweet, Grisham responded, “No, no, he shouldn’t. The people who are against him and who have been against him and working against him since the day they took office are just that,” said Grisham. “It is horrible that people are working against a president who is delivering results for this country and has been since day one. And the fact that people continue to try to negate anything that he’s doing and take away from the good work he’s doing on behalf of the American people, they deserve strong language like that,” she added.
Bolding inserted to highlight Grisham’s contention that Republican dissenters from the Trump agenda had the human-scum appellation coming. With that slander accomplished, the “Fox & Friends” hosts moved blithely to another topic: The alleged deep-state conspiracy against the president.
Perfect! Defending Trump’s human-scum tweet and then talking some deep-state trash is precisely why Grisham has become something approaching a Fox News contributor these days. As Media Matters’ Bobby Lewis wrote, “The White House press briefing now takes place on Fox News.” Fox is “virtually” the only outlet with which Grisham does business, notes Lewis, though she has appeared also on Sinclair and One America News.
So it was fitting that on Sunday, Grisham was on Fox News defending the comments she’d previously made on Fox News. Media correspondent Howard Kurtz asked her, “Now, the president is known to be blunt in his language. He took some flak from the press ... when he recently referred to Never Trumpers as human scum, and you took some heat for defending that. Any second thoughts?”
Second thoughts? For a Trump appointee? “No, I don’t have any second thoughts. It’s funny that I would get criticized for doing my job, which is to support the president. I speak for the president and I’m always going to support the things that he said. So I’m not sure why I got criticized for it,” she said, evincing no understanding whatsoever that she serves in the putative position of White House press secretary.
She wasn’t finished:
I don’t think people should be working within our government that are actively trying to work against a president who has done so much for this country. This man since he has taken office has had so many results, and he’s continuing to work despite all of this sham. I would also want to remind people that we could go into a government shutdown in the next couple of weeks and that’s because the Democrats won’t work. So I do stand by my language. I don’t think it’s okay for anybody in our government to be working against our government and our American people.
Presented with this prescription for autocracy, Kurtz asked Grisham whether she felt that all the journalists covering Trump were corrupt. “I’m not going to use the word ‘all,'" she responded.
With each utterance, Grisham is re-inventing her position. Without the White House briefings, she’s not particularly serving as White House press secretary, though she does defend the president at every turn. She’s more appropriately titled “Special Envoy to Fox News,” a place where she can repeat her remarkable praise of Trump with minimal resistance.
That’s not to say she doesn’t interact with the rest of the media. In fact, Grisham has been far more responsive to the inquiries of the Erik Wemple Blog than her predecessors. On Monday, we asked her why she gives such a disproportionate amount of her time to Fox News. Her reply: “I’ve also appeared on Sinclair and OAN, and have no qualms about appearing on other networks,” she wrote via email. “I’ve also been doing a good amount of radio. People forget I have three roles so appearing on TV is just a fraction of what I do. I work with reporters 24/7 - including you right now as an example. And let us not forget there are print and radio outlets to work with - TV isn’t everything.”
Question No. 2 related to the human-scum thing: If Grisham defends that term for certain opponents of the president, what sort of descriptors would be appropriate for murderers and other felons? Grisham’s response: “I called people who are actively working against a sitting president, and this country, as human scum. I love this country and people working ... within its government should not be trying to [undermine its] success - I would say that with regard to any Administration. And your other question about ‘murderers and other felons’ is just absurd and meant to insult me, which is fine.”
Our final question stemmed from Grisham’s chatter on Fox News about her job defending the president. The late Tony Snow, who served as press secretary in the second Bush administration, said that the job requires serving two masters — the president and the White House press corps. In light of recent evidence that Grisham is tilting toward a one-master model, we asked her how she handles this balancing act. Her response: “Your last question is too nuanced to answer, which you well know. But I balance those by speaking for the President, assisting press with stories 24/7, and doing all I can to fight for press access. Let’s not forget North Korea, or the unprecedented access American press had at the G7. Or the access granted to ALL media at the last state dinner. I could go on and on about the access I work to give the press corps but I have a feeling that part will be ignore[d]."
For a Trump press secretary, Grisham’s responses aren’t so bad. Why not take this whole question-answering thing to the briefing room podium?
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