Late last year, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sat down with Politico’s Eliana Johnson at the Women Rule Summit, and the reporter asked Donald Trump’s chief spokesperson about her legacy. She replied:
“I hope that it will be that I showed up every day and I did the very best job that I could to put forward the president’s message, to do the best job that I could to answer questions, to be transparent and honest throughout that process and do everything I could to make America a little better that day than it was the day before.”
As Sanders leaves the West Wing – her last day is today – it’s probably safe to say “transparent” and “honest” aren’t the first two adjectives most observers would use to describe her tenure.
If anything, Sanders is perhaps best known for effectively ending the daily White House press briefing, which has long been emblematic of Team Trump’s antagonistic posture toward the free press.
But then there’s her record for truthfulness to consider.
In May 2017, Sanders told reporters that “countless” FBI agents had told the White House that they had lost confidence in James Comey before the president fired him. When she was later asked about those comments by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, Sanders conceded that she’d made up the claim.
It was a jarring incident, to be sure, but it was hardly the only time Sanders fell short of her “transparent and honest” standard.
The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan recently said of Sanders, “She would claim to represent the truth on behalf of a president who lies. She did it disrespectfully and apparently without shame or an understanding of what the role of White House press secretary should be. She misled reporters or tried to, and through them, misled the American people. And all with her distinctive curled-lip disdain.”
But to assume we’ve seen the last of Sanders as she leaves the White House would be a mistake. Politico reported last week that the Republican is “seriously considering” a gubernatorial campaign in Arkansas in 2022. Trump has personally encouraged her to pursue the office and expressed an intention to endorse her.
As for Sanders’ successor, Stephanie Grisham will soon become the new White House press secretary and communications director, and given her background, it’s tough to be optimistic about her improving on Sanders’ performance.