Sean Spicer show ends in protest over hire
White House press secretary Sean Spicer has abruptly resigned over President Donald Trump’s decision to tap a camera-ready financier to lead the beleaguered White House communications team.
The departing spokesman said on Friday the president “could benefit from a clean slate” as he sought to steady operations amid the Russia investigations and before a healthcare showdown.
Spicer, whose daily briefings once dominated cable television and delighted late-night comics, quit in protest over the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director.
Spicer denounced what he considered Scaramucci’s lack of qualifications, according to people familiar with the situation.
As his first act on the job, Scaramucci, an early Trump supporter and former Goldman Sachs banker, announced Spicer’s deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, would take Spicer’s job.
The shake-up among the president’s spokespeople comes as Trump is suffering from dismal approval ratings and struggling to advance his legislative proposals.
As his effort to replace Barack Obama’s healthcare law crumbled this week, the president continued to vent frustration about the coverage of investigations into allegations of his election campaign’s connections to Russia.
Trump has blamed his own messengers – as well as the “fake news” media – for his woes.
Trump saluted Spicer’s “great ratings” on TV and said he was “grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people”.
He later tweeted: “Sean Spicer is a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media – but his future is bright!”
Scaramucci quickly took centre stage, parrying questions from reporters and praising Trump in a 37-minute charm offensive.
Spicer told the Associated Press he felt it would be best for Scaramucci to build his own operation “and chart a new way forward”.
He tweeted it had been an “honour” and “privilege” to serve Trump and he would remain in his post through August.
Sanders has largely taken over the media briefings in recent weeks, turning them into off-camera events.
Spicer’s tenure got off to a rocky start.
On Trump’s first full day in office, he 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 with reporters, became part of culture, particularly through an indelible impersonation by Melissa McCarthy on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
The White House had been looking for a new communications director for several weeks but struggled to attract an experienced Republican hand.
Scaramucci, a former Democrat – like Trump – who once called his new boss a “hack politician”, began seriously talking to the White House about the position this week.
A person with knowledge of the decision said Trump has been impressed by Scaramucci’s defence of the White House on television.