Former Clinton Press Sec on WH Replacing Sarah Sanders: ‘If Lying Is Acceptable,’ Trump Can ‘Be His Own Press Secretary’


On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, guest host John Berman posed a serious question to former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart that would be otherwise unthinkable in any other presidency: Should this White House even name a new press secretary?

“Well, I mean the press secretary’s job has multiple facets to it,” Lockhart noted. “The part that I think [outgoing press secretary Sarah Sanders] did do well was she defended the president. You should defend the president, but you have to defend him by telling the truth. She failed there.”

On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted that Sanders would be leaving the job she has held for nearly two years at the end of July. Sanders’ tenure as the White House’s top press spokesperson has been marred by a highly contentious relationship with many White House correspondents as well as numerous examples of outright lying to the press and the public. And in the past three months, Sanders effectively ended the daily press briefing, reducing official media interactions to short gaggles on the White House driveway and impromptu questioning of the president as he departs for events outside the Oval Office.

“One of the things that Sarah Sanders did is she normalized this idea it is okay to view the press as the enemy of the people,” Lockhart said. “Never once did she stand up and say, ‘Well, the president is being hyperbolic there, we don’t think that here at the White House.’ She basically echoed it. In almost every aspect of the job I think she failed.”

“If truth is not a priority for this White House, is it worth restoring the press briefing?” Berman asked Lockhart.

“I don’t know that I can answer that question,” Lockhart responded. “I don’t think anyone should take the job if truth isn’t the first order and the second order and the third order of business.” News reports on Friday said that the White House was considering pro-Trump political analyst Steve Cortes from CNN as Sanders’ replacement.

This White House press shop’s antagonistic relationship with the media and fealty to the president has prompted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen to advocate for radically diminishing the official White House-press relationship in the Trump era. Rosen has even called for news organizations to “send the interns” in recognition that the real news — and truth — lies elsewhere within the administration.

Lockhart told Berman that he still thought the press secretary’s daily briefing represents a “huge opportunity” for any White House to get its message out. But with a president whose infamous Twitter habit often supersedes, if not directly undermines, official White House statements, Lockhart said there’s a real risk of further misinforming the public if the next press secretary once again falls victim to the president’s consistent prevarication.

“Let the president just tweet,” he said. “If lying is acceptable, let him be his own press secretary.”

Watch the video above, via CNN.

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