Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Deputy Press Secretary via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a native of Arkansas and a mother of three, is anything but new to the political scene. The youngest child of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Sanders began her political involvement at age nine campaigning for her father. She has continued working on campaigns, most recently on Trump’s presidential campaign as a senior advisor following her father’s withdrawal from the race in February 2016.
On July 21, Sanders was declared the new White House press secretary after Sean Spicer resigned in response to Anthony Scaramucci’s [short lived] appointment to the position of White House communications director. She has adjusted to her new position with confidence, familiar with the podium in the White House press room as she had filled in for Spicer with increasing regularity since his brief leave in mid-April.
Sanders is different in that she is a much better fit for Trump’s White House than Sean Spicer ever was or ever would be. Conversely, Sanders is no different from most of the administration because she defends the president religiously and does not attempt to ameliorate his outrageous and sometimes outlandish policies, actions, and tweets. Furthermore, she has recently become less effective and skilled as the press secretary as she is inundated with the stress of her new position.
Especially at the beginning of her tenure, Sanders had been a stark contrast to her predecessor, Sean Spicer, who tended to get flustered and combative in response to more difficult questions posed by members of the press and rarely disclosed any new information. In all reality, Sanders provides the same information as Spicer, but she presents such information in a different manner and tone. Her initial popularity with the press highlights that, as press secretary, it is more important how you say things rather than what you say when attempting to have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Typically, Sanders does a phenomenal job acting as the fuel to the fire Trump creates with his bombastic statements and decisions, a role that Spicer shied away from in the bushes. With each policy measure or tweet Trump issues from the Oval Office, or more likely from one of his many golf courses, Sanders vehemently defends him and reiterates the supposed logical and presidential qualities of his decisions.
When Trump’s amicable relationship with Sessions first started to go downhill and receive national attention, Sanders was interviewed by Fox News on the ordeal. Sanders’ interview was written about in The Washington Post and The Washington Times, both of which brought focus to Sanders saying that the president’s frustration with Sessions “certainly hasn’t gone away, and I don’t think it will.” Unlike Spicer, who would have used his classic line “I think the president’s tweets speak for themselves,” Sanders has become a more prominent member of the Trump administration willing, it seems, to amplify Trump’s combativeness with her own words.
Likewise, when Trump announced on Twitter his ban on transgender individuals serving in the military “in any capacity,” Sanders was quick to fully support Trump’s decision, citing that having transgender individuals in the military is “expensive and disruptive.” She went further and continued to assert that “the decision [was] based on a military decision” and that “it’s not meant to be anymore than that.” Her statements were meant to highlight the supposed logic behind Trump’s decision making.
Unfortunately, Sanders’ initial popularity with the press has done nothing but dissipate with each day that Sanders reigns as press secretary. Her most recent comments about the press, in the context of Donald Jr.’s and President Trump’s supposed collusion with Russia and his son’s statement, did considerable damage to her relationship with reporters. Seemingly quite frustrated with the “liberal” media, she accused “the Democrats [as wanting] to continue to use [the Russia story] as a PR stunt” and criticized reporters for “fueling a false narrative about this Russia collusion.” During the August 1 White House press conference, Sanders refused to provide any more information on Trump’s involvement other than to say that he weighed in on his son’s response. Each time a follow-up question about Russia came up, Sanders would push back and cite reasons why the Clintons were actually the ones guilty of colluding with Russia.
Sanders has lost her patience with members of the press on more than one occasion. When she was questioned relentlessly about the ban on transgender individuals in the military, she eventually broke and said, “If those are the only questions we have, I’m going to call it a day, but if we have questions on other topics, I’ll be happy to take them.” Increasingly, the press briefings are beginning to look no different than how they were run before July 21.
Furthermore, Sanders has not completely abandoned Spicer’s way of making bold-faced lies to the press. During her interview with Fox News about the Sessions incident, she stated that Trump and most of America feel that the Russian allegations are “a complete hoax.” However, The Guardian conducted a poll in June that showed that “68% of Americans are at least moderately concerned about the possibility Trump or his campaign associates had inappropriate ties to Russia.” This poll, which was published before Sanders’ statements, clearly contradicts what Sanders proclaimed.
So far, Sanders has failed to rise above the lack of accountability and accuracy that has become apparent in every corner of the Trump administration. When Sanders was first introduced to the podium in the White House press room, reporters and citizens alike had high hopes for the energetic, confident, and strong young Southern woman in the arena of politics. She has certainly proved herself to be more worthy of the position of White House press secretary than Sean Spicer. Regrettably, she has quickly devolved into any other member of Trump’s administration: a public servant who is hopelessly loyal to our inexperienced and egotistical president rather than the American public— the people whom they are meant to serve.