When Mitt Romney ran for the presidency in 2012, he required 22 people to sign off on every tweet sent from his account.
For Donald Trump, during his presidential campaign and now at the White House, just one staffer helps craft his social media presence.
“His name is Dan Scavino,” then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly said of Trump’s social media director in December. She accused Scavino of stirring up “that far corner of the internet that really enjoys nastiness and threats” and directing the vitriol toward her.
Scavino, 41, probably didn’t mind Kelly’s accusation. Creating divides and tension between Trump and the traditional news media was central to the campaign’s social media strategy, and remains a pillar of the Trump White House.
“When things aren’t necessarily working out with CNN or somebody, we can put [videos] on his platform and get more views just on one of those social media accounts that Mr. Trump has,” Scavino said at a July campaign rally after Trump called him up on stage to brag about his social media audience.
Trump views social media as a way to take his reality-TV skills directly to his supporters, unfiltered by journalists. He uses Twitter as his main communication platform ― sometimes even with foreign governments.
“He’s delivering his message to the American people. He’s being transparent with everybody,” Scavino told Fox News host Jesse Watters in April. “Sure, there might be a little controversy and people don’t like it, but you know what, there’s no better way.”
But some of Trump’s inflammatory tweets, like his remarkably sexist attack on “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski on Thursday morning, beg the question: How big of a role does Scavino play in crafting and monitoring Trump’s tweets?
Very little, Scavino claims.
“Any of his messaging and anything that’s put out on his Twitter account is 100-percent him. He doesn’t run anything by me,” Scavino told CNN last July.
During work hours, Trump will often dictate tweets for Scavino or other staffers to transcribe and send from the president’s account. But when Trump retreats to his private quarters for the evening, it’s just him and his phone.
Scavino has only occasionally felt the need to reign in Trump’s tweets, he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in February.
“There’s been times, but not too often,” Scavino said. He added that he’s always believed it’s best to “let Trump be Trump.”
CNN asked Scavino if there was anything Trump could do or say that would make him leave Trump’s side. He answered with an unequivocal “no.”
That loyalty has been decades in the making.
Scavino first met Trump at age 16 years as a caddy at the Briar Hall Country Club in Westchester County, New York. Trump eventually bought the course and turned it into the Trump National Golf Club.
“I’ll never forget the day his limo first pulled up,” Scavino told Westchester magazine a few years ago. “I was star-struck. I remember his first gratuity. It was two bills ― two hundred-dollar bills. I said, ‘I am never spending this money.’ I still have both bills.”
Trump vowed he’d one day hire the teenager, Scavino recalled. After graduating from the State University of New York, Plattsburgh, and working in sales for a Coca-Cola bottler and a pharmaceutical manufacturer, Scavino said Trump made good on the promise. In 2004, Scavino started working as assistant manager at the Trump National Golf Club. He was promoted to executive vice president in 2008.
Years later, Scavino was on the verge of launching a communication consulting business. He caught wind of Trump’s serious intentions to run for office, and offered to “drop everything” to join the campaign.
Today, Scavino has become one of Trump’s closest confidantes ― one of the “original four” who have been with Trump since the beginning of his campaign.
“Scavino channels Trump, not the other way around,” a senior White House aide told Politico this month.
That’s evident from Scavino’s own Twitter account. While he’s eloquent and unflinching in on-camera interviews, he shares his boss’ fondness for hurling insults, creating inflammatory nicknames, and a liberal use of all-caps in tweets. Take a look for yourself:
Unsurprisingly, Scavino has had some social media scandals of his own.
In April, he seemed to violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their government positions to publicly support or oppose political candidates, when he tweeted at Trump supporters that they should help defeat Republican Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) in a primary.
Last summer during the campaign, he came under fire for being the staffer who tweeted out an anti-Semitic image of Hillary Clinton atop piles of hundred-dollar bills and a Jewish Star of David that read, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”
But scandals like those aren’t likely to slow Scavino.
“He is in the White House today because of social media,” Scavino told Fox News of his boss in April. “It’s what won him the White House, and he’s just gonna keep tweeting away.”
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