The Biggest Change During Sarah Sanders' Tenure

Press briefings effectively ended during her 2-year run as White House press secretary
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2019 8:15 AM CDT
The Biggest Change During Sarah Sanders' Tenure
President Trump welcomes White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to the stage as he pauses from speaking about second chance hiring to publicly thank the outgoing press secretary in the East Room of the White House, Thursday June 13, 2019, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sarah Sanders is going home to Arkansas after almost two years as White House press secretary—and it is a tenure unlikely to be forgotten. Daily briefings were a decades-old tradition under previous administrations, but they almost completely disappeared after Sanders replaced Sean Spicer in 2017. In 2018, briefings gradually dwindled to about one per month and they are now close to being a thing of the past: The last one was held on March 11 and lasted just 14 minutes. Media writer Brian Stelter of CNN writes that journalists recently noticed a coating of dust on the podium in the briefing room, and it's not clear whether Sanders will use it again before she departs at the end of the month. More:

  • What's next: The 36-year-old Sanders became emotional Thursday when she spoke about being able to spend more time with her three school-age children, the Hill reports. Asked about Trump's suggestion that she follow in the footsteps of father Mike Huckabee and run for governor of Arkansas, she said: "I don’t know. I learned a long time ago never to rule anything out."
  • Reactions: Sanders' departure met with some very mixed responses, from high praise to mockery, USA Today reports. Stephen Colbert tweeted: "Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving, or as Sarah Huckabee Sanders would say, 'Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not leaving.'" Sen. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, thanked her for doing a "terrific job" in dealing with a "hostile press with an insatiable desire to go after the Trump Administration for everything under the sun."

  • Non-traditional: Aaron Blake of the Washington Post writes that to last so long in the Trump White House, Sanders "had to stop effectively serving as a traditional press secretary." On a more critical note, he says that beyond the lack of briefings, Sanders will be remembered as "the White House press secretary who admitted to investigators that she made false statements to the country." That's a reference to her claim that "countless members of the FBI" were happy to see James Comey go. A post at Axios includes that among "her most controversial claims" while in the job.
  • Top contender? Mike Allen of Axios writes that Stephanie Grisham, spokesperson for the first lady, is a name to watch as a potential replacement. Trump likes and trusts and would like to see her in the post, he adds. Grisham is one of the few remaining White House staffers still around from the campaign.
  • The timing: Sanders said she is leaving now because she thinks it is important for the president to have a new press secretary in place before the 2020 campaign gears up, Politico reports. She admitted there had been earlier times when she felt like leaving, though insiders say she remains on very good terms with the president—and, despite public clashes, with many White House correspondents. (She once accused reporters of "purposefully misleading the American people.")
  • Others in the mix: The conservative Washington Examiner suggests four possible replacements: "Hyperbolic" former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, "intellectual" Trump booster Newt Gingrich, "safe bet" Mick Mulvaney, who is currently Trump's White House chief of staff—or nobody, since without press briefings, "why waste taxpayer dollars on a no-show job?"
  • The odds: Debra Saunders at the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweeted some odds on potential replacements, including current deputy press secretary, the role Sanders started out in, at 4 to 1, Kellyanne Conway at 20 to 1, Rudy Giuliani at 250 to 1, and no replacement at 19 to 1. (Grisham is not on the list.)

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