The 'Surprise Ascendance' of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Paige Williams profiles WH press secretary and her job as 'Trump's battering ram' for 'New Yorker'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2018 12:40 PM CDT
The 'Surprise Ascendance' of Sarah Huckabee Sanders
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a press briefing on Sept. 10, 2018.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

"What does the press secretary believe in—other than defending the president's every word?" That's the question Paige Williams poses for a deep dive on Sarah Huckabee Sanders (aka "Trump's battering ram") for the New Yorker. It follows Sanders from her "so miserable, so mad" early teens (her mother's words), to her stints in youth political groups, all the way through her help on the various campaigns for father Mike Huckabee, including his bids for senator, governor, and president. "I'm a total daddy's girl," she once said. After Huckabee lost out on the 2016 GOP nomination to Donald Trump, a desire to help Trump advance a conservative agenda and defeat DC "insiders" like the Clintons drove Sanders to accept a role in the White House. That led to what Williams deems a "surprise ascendance" to press secretary after Sean Spicer's departure—a surprise, Williams writes, because Sanders was a "campaign operative, not a media-relations professional."

"An operative is skilled at provoking outrage," Williams notes. Another pointed insight into Sanders' communications strategy, from an ex-colleague: "She knows the other side is going to paint you in the worst light, and that you have to dictate the terms." Williams cites Sanders' often-hostile confrontations with reporters (as well as Sanders' demands that Williams keep most of their own conversations off the record), but she notes Sanders doesn't always act in public like she does in private. "You sit in Sarah's office and she can be remarkably decent and charming, and then she can be obfuscating and ridiculous at the podium," one reporter says. As for how Sanders reconciles her religious beliefs with Trump, who's been accused of adultery and lying, among other things, Sanders tells Williams: "I'm not going to my office expecting it to be my church. Frankly, if people of faith don't get involved in the dirty process, then you're missing the entire point of what we're called to do." More on Sanders here. (More Longform stories.)

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