White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is leaving the White House after a tenure defined by lashing out at reporters for critical coverage of Donald Trump while standing by the president’s lies and falsehoods.
Trump confirmed Sanders’ departure in tweets on Thursday, saying the press secretary would be leaving her post by the end of the month and returning to her home state of Arkansas. The president hinted that Sanders might be eying a run for governor.
In remarks delivered during an unrelated White House event on Thursday, Sanders said she would miss working for Trump but that she planned to spend more time with her three children.
“It’s truly been something that I will treasure forever. It’s the greatest job I’ve ever had. I’ve loved every minute, even the hard minutes,” Sanders said.
Trump also spoke at the event and reiterated his hope that Sanders would run for governor.
“If we can get her to run for the governor of Arkansas, I think she’d do very well. I keep trying to get her to do that,” the president said.
Sanders’ departure came about two months after special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that said she lied to reporters in 2017 about the circumstances surrounding James Comey’s ouster as FBI director.
The press secretary told reporters on May 10, 2017, that Trump fired Comey after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recommended he do so. But Mueller’s report released April 18 said “substantial evidence” indicates Trump fired Comey for refusing to publicly state that the president wasn’t personally being investigated. Sanders also falsely claimed during that news conference that FBI employees “lost confidence” in Comey, and later admitted to the special counsel’s office that her remark was fabricated.
Trump’s White House has had a continually combative relationship with the press. The White House temporarily revoked press credentials for CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who has frequently sparred with Trump and Sanders at news conferences.
To defend the revocation, Sanders tweeted a video from right-wing conspiracy website Infowars, which appeared to be doctored to purportedly show Acosta assaulting the White House intern in charge of handing reporters the microphone to ask Trump questions during a news conference.
Journalists and media advocacy organizations condemned the decision and fabricated justification, part of a pattern of Trump and administration officials undermining the free press.
The administration has also significantly cut back on press briefings. In a January tweet, Trump said he had told Sanders “not to bother” with briefings anymore because “the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.”
By the time Trump announced the press secretary’s departure, it had been 94 days since Sanders’ last press briefing.
There were rumors last year that Sanders would leave the White House. In June 2018, CBS News reported that she “has told friends that she plans to leave the administration at the end of the year.” In a tweet, Sanders pushed back on the report but did not deny it.
By July 2018, then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine had begun searching for Sanders’ possible replacement, according to Politico, which reported that White House staffers believed Sanders would leave sometime after the midterm elections in November.
At the time, Shine denied the report and Sanders declined to comment. Shine has since resigned from his position.
Sanders stepped into the role after serving as Trump’s principal deputy press secretary. Her predecessor, Sean Spicer, resigned in July of 2017 over the hiring of then-communications director Anthony Scaramucci, the final straw in a tenure beset with controversies.
Throughout her time in the post, Sanders adopted Trump’s tactic of attacking the media. She regularly became combative with reporters, lecturing them about negative coverage and mistakes — while repeatedly providing false information and shifting explanations, as well as defending the president’s lies and falsehoods.
Sanders developed a reputation as one of Trump’s most ardent defenders, with her press briefings often seen as playing to “an audience of one.”
However, at least one of her bizarre defenses reportedly drew Trump’s ire.
Following an incident at the NATO summit in July 2018, Sanders memorably told The Washington Post that then-chief of staff John Kelly ― seen grimacing while Trump ranted about U.S. ally Germany ― was upset about being offered “only pastries and cheese” instead of a full breakfast.
Vanity Fair cited a source who claimed that the president “was annoyed” at “the slim breakfast menu” explanation.
“He thought that was cheesy and lame. Trump wants fighters, not jokers,” the source said, according to Vanity Fair.
Before joining Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, Sanders worked for a number of Republican campaigns, including that of her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).
Antonia Blumberg and Sara Boboltz contributed to this report.