There are at least four people being considered to replace outgoing White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Reuters reported this week, citing an unnamed source.
According to the outlet, the four potential candidates include Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley; Stephanie Grisham, first lady Melania Trump’s communications director; Heather Nauert, who stepped down as State Department spokesperson in April; and Tony Sayegh, the soon-to-be-former Treasury Department spokesman.
The job of White House spokesperson can at times involve a lot of heavy-lifting — answering for President Donald Trump’s tweets, spinning the administration’s most unpopular decisions, and doing so amid a break-neck news cycle. Sanders appeared to ignore most of those tasks during the last few months of her tenure, dispensing with the daily press briefings altogether (the last one being more than 90 days ago) and speaking only to the press occasionally, typically from the White House driveway.
Her reputation also took a beating as the lies she told the press were later revealed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, made public in April.
Thursday’s announcement that Sanders was stepping down signaled yet another high-profile departure on Trump’s staff — the 43rd such departure since he took office. Sanders is reportedly considering running for governor in her home state of Arkansas in 2022.
Here’s what we know about her potential replacements.
A former special assistant to the president, Gidley appears to be a through-and-through MAGA loyalist. The Arkansas native has degrees in journalism and political science, and worked previously for Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, as director of media operations. He also served as communications director for Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign.
It’s worth noting that Gidley feels the Trump administration deserves “a complicit, compliant media,” and routinely accuses the press of mischaracterizing the president.
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) May 26, 2019
Gidley routinely repeats the president’s claims that stories that aren’t favorable to the administration are fake and biased.
Nauert’s style as State Department spokesperson was calm, if firm. Going straight from Fox News to the Trump administration, Nauert was camera-ready as she toed the administration’s line on thorny foreign policy issues, occasionally (though rarely) losing her cool with foreign reporters.
In one instance, she snapped at two Russian reporters who pushed back against her description of a Russian video depicting what Nauert said were intercontinental missiles aimed at Florida.
“You’re from Russian TV too? Okay, enough said, then,” she said at the time.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 1, 2018
Nauert was briefly considered for the post of U.S. ambassador to the U.N., replacing Nikki Haley. But questions surrounding her lack of diplomatic experience along with reports that she was employing a nanny who was not legally permitted to work in the country resulted in her dropping her bid for the post. Nauert later said the two months in which she was being considered for the post were “grueling” for her family, and she chose not to return to the State Department afterward.
The owner of an Arizona-based PR firm, Grisham previously served on now-Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) 2012 presidential campaign and was a press aide to Trump’s 2016 campaign. She was former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s deputy for the first few months of 2017 before moving over to the East Wing of the White House to assist the first lady.
In an August 2018 article on Mrs. Trump, The Daily Beast quoted sources who described Grisham as “a highly competent and self-aware communications operative who likely gets a kick out of the frantic speculation that she helps stir. She was, at least in part, ‘trolling the press,’ the sources said.”
A December 2018 Washington Post profile paints Grisham as tought, and “not someone with whom to tangle.” The outlet noted that during the presidential campaign, Grisham spent a lot of time with the traveling press, winning “their appreciation by being an advocate for media access and watching out for them on the trail.”
A New Yorker of Lebanese descent, Sayegh was tasked with selling Trump’s tax reforms in his job as assistant secretary of the Treasury, leading the department’s Office of Public Affairs.
Coming from the world of political consulting and advertising, Sayegh decided to step down from the job in May, saying his departure had been in the works for months.
Prior to joining the administration, he had a robust run as a commentator on Fox News, where he did not shy away from criticizing Trump. As CNN pointed out, “In his role as a Fox News contributor in 2015 and early 2016, Sayegh described Trump as ‘the poster child for crony capitalism’ and pointed to Trump’s multiple bankruptcies.” Sayegh also lamented at the time that “all … Trump’s campaign is boiled down to is personal insults,” calling Trump’s then-proposed Muslim travel ban “irrational and unconstitutional.”
Sayegh later changed his tune when Trump became the Republican nominee, saying that Trump had “overwhelmingly” won his confidence.