Stephanie Grisham flashed signs this week of how she’ll serve as Donald Trump’s defender-in-chief, firing off a series of acid-tongued tweets and issuing a nearly 800-word op-ed to confront media outlets for their scrutinizing coverage of her boss.
The White House press secretary has operated as a largely behind-the-scenes force from the West Wing communications shop since being promoted in June, eschewing interviews and avoiding televised briefings.
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Instead, Grisham has leveled her most biting critiques of the media off-camera, digitally defending the president via posts from her official Twitter account and on Thursday in a lengthy opinion piece she co-authored with her top deputy, Hogan Gidley.
That column savaged The Washington Post for a story the paper published Sunday about “Trump’s lost summer,” in which journalists Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker reported that many of the president’s advisers and allies considered the recent stretch “a period of missed opportunity and self-sabotage.”
But the last few months really constituted “a lost summer for the Washington Post,” Grisham and Gidley wrote in their op-ed in The Washington Examiner, arguing that Rucker and Parker “published an opinion article they claimed was news but that instead pushed their own personal political narrative.”
Thursday’s column in the Examiner was not the first time Grisham has deployed an op-ed to attack journalism critical of the administration. As Melania Trump’s communications director, she authored in December 2018 a roughly 1,300-word entry published on CNN.com rebutting an opinion piece by network contributor Kate Andersen Brower, who offered a negative assessment of the first lady.
On Friday, Grisham continued her line of attack against the Post, complaining on Twitter that the paper did not cover “the president’s directive to ease all federal student loan debt for disabled veterans,” nor did it write about “the first time in history a sitting United States president walked across the DMZ into North Korea.”
Her tweet scolding the network elicited a retort from CNN’s communication’s team, and came as Trump dug in on his refusal to acknowledge he erred in predicting Alabama would “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian.
The broadsides from Grisham against major media outlets, paired with her reluctance to advocate on-air on behalf of the administration, represent a departure from her predecessors’ approach to the role of press secretary.
Though Sean Spicer gained quick notoriety for his combative interactions with the White House press corps, he presided over televised briefings, and his interpretation of the position aligned most closely with those of previous presidential spokespeople.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders tapered off and eventually oversaw the elimination of the White House’s daily briefings, but emerged as a more dogmatic champion of the administration’s agenda — bludgeoning Trump’s detractors and maintaining a consistent presence on cable news. She made her first appearance as a Fox News contributor on Friday.