WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s embattled spokesman during the first six months of his presidency, is resigning his position, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.
Spicer’s decision appears to be linked to the appointment of a new White House communications director, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci. The people with knowledge of the decision spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the personnel matter publicly.
Spicer’s daily press briefings had become must-see television until recent weeks when he took on a more behind-the-scenes role. Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has largely taken over the briefings, turning them into an off-camera event.
Spicer spent several years leading communications at the Republican National Committee before helping Trump’s campaign in the general election. He is close to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former RNC chair, and several of the lower-ranking aides in the White House communications shop.
Priebus told The Associated Press that he supports Scaramucci “100 per cent,” despite reportedly trying to prevent the financier from getting multiple administration positions.
“We go back a long, long way and are very good friends,” Priebus said of Scaramucci. “All good here.”
Scaramucci is expected to play a visible role as one of Trump’s defenders on television. But Spicer and other officials questioned his hiring as communications director ahead of the president’s push to overhaul the tax system and other policy issues. One of the officials said Spicer objected to Trump’s vision for the future of the press operation.
Spicer’s resignation set off a chaotic scene in the White House briefing room, as journalists gathered near a doorway seeking more details on his departure. White House officials had yet to announce the timing of the daily briefing — and who would be conducting it.
Spicer’s tenure got off to a rocky start. On Trump’s first full day in office, Spicer lambasted journalists over coverage of the crowd size at the inauguration and stormed out of the briefing room without answering questions.
Spicer, who often displayed a fiery demeanour in tense on-camera exchanges with reporters, became part of culture in the way few people in his job have, particularly through an indelible impersonation by Melissa McCarthy on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
She portrayed Spicer as a hostile figure who tore through the briefing room on a portable podium, willing to attack the press.
Spicer remained loyal to Trump but he frequently battled perceptions that he was not plugged in to what the president was thinking, and had to worry that Trump was watching and critiquing his performance from the Oval Office.
Throughout the start of the administration, there was always the possibility that Trump would undermine something Spicer said by simply sending out a tweet.