Trump's New White House Hire Knows How to Fight the Press
Anthony Scaramucci made numerous appearances on cable news during the presidential campaign and was practically a staple on the Fox News Channel.
When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wed Scottish actress Louise Linton in Washington on June 24, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania were in attendance, while Vice President Mike Pence officiated. Chief of staff Reince Priebus was there, as was Sean Spicer, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and several members of Trump’s Cabinet. But even in this crowd of the very rich and powerful, one person with a much-lesser profile stood out. His name: Anthony Scaramucci.
“Anthony got endless slaps on the back at Steve’s wedding,” one attendee told the New York Post.
Why? Because Scaramucci had just taken CNN down a notch, forcing Trump’s least favorite news network to retract a story saying that he was somehow nefariously connected to a Russian bank controlled by the Kremlin.
Scaramucci was a loyal member of Trump’s transition team and last month was made chief strategy officer at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, but Trump was already sizing him up for a more prominent role, and his CNN takedown and subsequent appearances on Fox News discussing the matter may have sealed the deal, according to people familiar with Trump’s thinking.
On Friday, therefore, Scaramucci — “Mooch,” to his friends — was made communications director, replacing Spicer, who was serving as acting communications director and resigned from his spot as White House press secretary to be replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, daughter of former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Prior to the CNN debacle, which resulted in three journalists losing their jobs, few in Hollywood knew much about Scaramucci, but his ties to media are fairly strong; he co-hosted 42 episodes of Wall Street Week on the Fox Business Network.
He has also made numerous appearances on CNN and, in 2016, was practically a staple on the Fox News Channel, regularly showing up on The O’Reilly Factor, The Kelly File, Hannity and other shows to defend Trump and explain the then-nominee's economic plans for the country should he be elected president.
After the retracted CNN report, Scaramucci’s first interview was on Fox & Friends, where he graciously forgave CNN for the false story but also hammered the media in general over what he sees as an obsession over a vague conspiracy that claims Russia helped Trump get elected as president.
“It’s a bunch of nonsense. I’d like it to stop. It certainly was nonsense related to me — it’s probably nonsense related to others,” he said on the show June 29.
“There’s some level of vindication,” he said of his response to CNN’s apology, “not just for the president, but for the entire team.”
A few days later, he was back on Fox News, again rather politely taking down CNN in a way that impressed Trump. “Unlike you, who’s a full-time journalist, I used to play one on television for your sister network, and I have some empathy for journalism,” Scaramucci told Howard Kurtz.
He explained that after he gave a speech in Davos, Switzerland, he was approached by the allegedly mysterious Russian banker at a restaurant and innocently, politely spoke to him — in public — for less than five minutes.
“Somebody took a picture of that and said that a senior Trump official was talking to the Russian sovereign wealth [fund],” he explained. He told Kurtz he spoke to senior executives at CNN, and they moved quickly to retract the story.
“The media is having an existential crisis because [Trump] is president,” Scaramucci told Kurtz. “He’s a terrific guy. I’ve known him personally for 20 years.”
He added: “Wall Street’s a little bit fairer than Washington. … We’re front-stabbers on Wall Street. If we don’t like each other, we come right at each other.”
He knows of what he speaks. Scaramucci, 53, joined Goldman Sachs after graduating from Harvard Law School, then helped launch Oscar Capital and sold it to Neuberger Berman, which was then purchased by Lehman Brothers, where he worked until founding SkyBridge Capital in 2005.
SkyBridge is a hedge fund managing about $7 billion in assets, and it is also the group behind the SALT Conference, an investment gathering where luminaries like George W. Bush, Al Gore, Oliver Stone, Al Pacino and Mitt Romney have delivered keynote speeches. The hedge fund is also the parent of SkyBridge Media, which purchased the rights to Wall Street Week in 2015, a decade after it ended its run on PBS, and licensed it — with Scaramucci co-hosting with Gary Kaminsky — to Fox.
Scaramucci resigned from SkyBridge in January when it was clear he’d be joining the Trump administration in some capacity.
During his first appearance in his new role — a press conference widely carried on cable news Friday — Scaramucci called Spicer a “true American patriot” and added, “I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money.”
He also addressed reports that Priebus and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were against his appointment.
“Reince and I have been personal friends for six years. We are a little bit like brothers — we rough each other up every once in a while,” he said.
NBC News reported that Bannon said Scaramucci would get the job “over my dead body,” but Scaramucci told reporters of Bannon on Friday that he has “a huge, enormous amount of respect for him” and that he is “one of the smartest people I know.”
“He’s got a strong personality. I’ve got a strong personality,” he said.
Bannon and Scaramucci are both Goldman Sachs veterans, though their time there did not overlap, Scaramucci explained Friday.
“There was something great about that culture in yesteryear,” he said of Goldman Sachs. “You subordinated yourself to the team, even if you had disagreements.”