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Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ record makes her an odd choice for SOTU response

The GOP could've found someone to give a State of the Union response who has a reputation for telling the truth. They went with Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead.


After every modern president has delivered his State of the Union addresses, the other party is offered an opportunity to deliver an official televised response. In a handful of instances, these speeches have gone so poorly that there’s been talk of a “curse.”

Nevertheless, one notable Republican has agreed to take on the challenge. Politico reported last week:

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week. ... Sanders, the youngest governor in the U.S., was elected to the governor’s mansion in Little Rock last November and sworn in early last month. She is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and spent nearly two years as White House press secretary during the Trump administration.

At face value, the GOP’s choice is understandable. The party sees value in creating contrasts with the Democratic president, so officials chose a woman who is half of Biden’s age, and who has extensive experience speaking in support of the Republican agenda.

But there is a credibility problem to consider.

One of the most memorable moments of Sanders’ tenure as the press secretary in Donald Trump’s White House came in May 2017, after she said she’d heard from “countless” FBI employees about how grateful they were that the Republican president had fired former FBI Director James Comey.

When The New York Times’ Michael Shear expressed skepticism about the claim, Sanders insisted her claim was entirely accurate. “Between, like, email, text messages, absolutely. Yes,” she declared from the White House podium. “We’re not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they’re very happy with the president’s decision.”

Sanders later testified under oath about the exchange, and she was forced to admit that she’d made it all up — though she characterized her deception as a “slip of the tongue.” The Arkansan also said her comments about rank-and-file FBI agents losing confidence in Comey was a comment she made “in the heat of the moment,” and not an observation rooted in fact.

It was an extreme example of Sanders’ willingness to say untrue things, but it was not an isolated incident. A Washington Post analysis in 2019 described her as “a prolific liar.” A related piece from the time labeled the Republican “the disdainful Queen of Gaslighting.”

There are plenty of reports that have rounded up examples of Sanders peddling obvious falsehoods, and the lists aren’t altogether short.

Republicans couldn’t find someone to deliver a State of the Union response who has a reputation for telling the truth?

President Joe Biden will deliver his second State of the Union address on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. Follow for live updates and analysis from experts and insiders.