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On June 13th, President Donald J. Trump announced that his controversial press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, will step down from her position on June 30th. In her 22 months on the job, Sanders has faced accusations that she and President Trump often mislead the American people. Her departure has been met with relief by those who loathe the president, but Trump has only spoken kindly of her since his announcement.
In his tweet announcing Sanders’ departure, Trump characterized Sanders as “very special,” noting her “extraordinary talents” and congratulating her on having “done an incredible job.” When her time as press secretary ends, Sanders plans to return to her native Arkansas, where Trump has predicted lofty ambitions for her. In his tweets, Trump encouraged her to run for the state’s governor (Sanders’ father, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, was previously the state’s governor). Although Arkansas is a deeply red state, Sanders could face an uphill battle should she choose to run for office. During her three and a half years at the White House and 22 months as press secretary, her actions have been bombarded with media criticism.
News of Sanders’ departure reignited the flames that have long stirred regarding her alleged constant dishonesty. Shortly after the announcement, Joe Lockhart, who served as White House press secretary from 1998-2000 during President Bill Clinton’s second term, wrote in an op-ed that Sanders’ time as press secretary was marked with a lack of honesty and transparency. To show that Sanders failed as press secretary, Lockhart pointed to her inability to prevent Trump from attacking his political opponents at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial last week. Making a political attack at such a sensitive locale was interpreted as distasteful by much of the American public.
Lockhart also made a point that many have emphasized during Sanders’ time as press secretary. In the 300 days preceding Trump’s announcement, Sanders held only eight briefings with White House reporters. In the 95 days preceding the announcement, she has held no briefings at all. Many media experts have seen Sanders’ lack of briefings, not to mention Trump’s frequent “fake news” rhetoric, as deliberate attacks on journalists and the merit, if not factual basis, of political reporting. People ranging from ordinary citizens to prominent news and cultural figures have thus reacted with nothing short of delight that Sanders is departing.
The very night of Trump’s announcement, the prominent late-night TV hosts Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel devoted segments of their shows to lambasting Sanders. Noah, on The Daily Show, joked that Sanders’ lack of press briefings and flat-out denial that she is, in fact, leaving the White House are just two of many examples of her consistently lying to the American people. Kimmel, on his Jimmy Kimmel Live! Show, referred to Sanders’ words as, in a reference to her father, “Hucka B.S.”
Sanders is far from the first person to leave the Trump administration. Trump’s time as president has been notable for the larger-than-normal number of officials who have entered and departed his administration. Sanders’ replacement has yet to be named, but people are all but certain to immediately question not just this replacement’s honesty, but how long this person will last in the Trump White House.