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Sean Spicer Announces Resignation As White House Press Secretary

Jul 21, 2017
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President Trump has ordered some changes at the White House. Trump today hired New York financier and TV commentator Anthony Scaramucci as his new communications director. And as he came onboard, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced his resignation. This is all happening as the president struggles with a stalled legislative agenda and the ongoing Russia investigation. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Long before taking the job as communications director, Anthony Scaramucci has been a prominent mouthpiece for the president. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway describes him as one of the killers on TV. Scaramucci showcased that talent in the White House briefing room this afternoon, using the first on-camera briefing in more than three weeks to make the case that reporters just don't see the president in the same positive light his followers do.

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ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: To use a Wall Street expression, there might be an arbitrage spread between how well we are doing and how well some of you guys think we're doing. And we're going to work hard to close that spread.

HORSLEY: Scaramucci, a Harvard-trained lawyer, made his fortune on Wall Street, starting at Goldman Sachs and later launching his own hedge fund. He began the process of selling that fund months ago in anticipation of a White House job. But for a long time, no job materialized. Scaramucci was reportedly blackballed by chief of staff Reince Priebus. Today, officials insisted that Priebus is 100 percent behind the new hire. Scaramucci says he and the chief of staff are like brothers who sometimes rough each other up.

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SCARAMUCCI: I'm a team player. I've, you know, played team sports my whole life, at least as a kid. And I believe that you have to subordinate yourself to the greater good of the team. And if teammates don't have disagreements about certain things, then they're not going to get to the championship.

HORSLEY: Scaramucci also denied any bad blood with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, even though Spicer quit just as Scaramucci arrived.

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SCARAMUCCI: This is obviously a difficult situation to be in, and I applaud his efforts here. And I love the guy. And I wish him well. And I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.

HORSLEY: Spicer said in a tweet he'll stay on at the White House through a short transition period. It's been a contentious six months for the outgoing press secretary. He'd been on the job barely 24 hours when he was sent into the briefing room to deliver a patently false statement about President Trump's inaugural crowd size.

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SEAN SPICER: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period, both in person and around the globe.

HORSLEY: Spicer later found himself defending other baseless claims from the president - that millions of people voted illegally, for example, or that former President Obama ordered wiretaps at Trump Tower. Before long, Spicer became a running gag on "Saturday Night Live." Melissa McCarthy played the press secretary in drag and acknowledged he'd gotten off to a rocky start with the news media.

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MELISSA MCCARTHY: (As Sean Spicer) When I say rocky start, I mean it in the sense of "Rocky" the movie because I came out here to punch you in the face.

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MCCARTHY: (As Sean Spicer) And also, I don't talk so good.

HORSLEY: "SNL" enjoyed its best ratings in years. And millions tuned in as well to watch the real Spicer in his daily sparring matches with reporters. At first, the former reality star in the Oval Office bragged about the daily briefings' blockbuster ratings. But eventually, Trump soured on his press secretary and complained Spicer wasn't doing an adequate job of defending the administration. When Trump met with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier this year Spicer, a devout Catholic, was left behind.

In recent weeks, Sarah Sanders has been taking over more of the daily briefings, and many are now conducted off-camera. Scaramucci announced this afternoon Sanders will replace Spicer as press secretary. He was non-committal when asked if those briefings will be televised. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.