Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the reporters who cover the White House haven’t always had the smoothest relationship. But that isn’t stopping some of those journalists from organizing a goodbye party for the outgoing White House press secretary next week.
On Wednesday, two White House correspondents, Politico’s Anita Kumar and DailyMail.com’s Francesca Chambers, invited fellow reporters and some Trump staffers to “farewell drinks” for Sanders at an upscale D.C. restaurant on June 24, according to a copy of the email invitation obtained by HuffPost.
“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job!” the president tweeted. “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas ― she would be fantastic.”
The decision to plan the casual shindig is notable, considering Sanders’ often adversarial relationship with the press. During Sanders’ tenure as press secretary, the once-regular White House briefings became increasingly rare. In April, the Trump administration set a White House record when it went 43 days without hosting a press briefing. Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said then that he had been pushing Sanders for more regular briefings to little avail.
That same month, the long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller provided hard evidence that Sanders lied at a White House press conference in 2017 when she claimed the administration had “heard from countless members of the FBI” who’d lost faith in former FBI Director James Comey.
Sanders later told Mueller’s office that the comment had been a “slip of the tongue” and that the assertion, which she’d supposedly heard from “rank-and-file FBI agents,” was “not founded on anything,” according to the special counsel’s report.
Kumar is a member of the WHCA’s board, and Chambers is the organization’s treasurer. But Knox told HuffPost the WHCA had “nothing to do” with the upcoming event.
Kumar, who sent the email, described the drinks to HuffPost as a “casual gathering for reporters who have engaged with Sarah, many of whom have done so for years.” She noted that such events are “quite common, regardless of administration ― as many Huffington Post reporters know and have frequented.” (It’s not clear which events Kumar was referring to, but HuffPost has never thrown a party for an administration official.)
“The challenges between the administration and the White House press corps are well documented and, in some cases, ongoing,” Kumar said. “I generally believe that part of the remedy to those challenges is to engage in conversation rather than to avoid it.”