White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has no interest in fixing the White House’s relationship with the press corps.
In an interview with CNN’s Dylan Byers that was published Wednesday, Bannon said he “could care less” about repairing the Trump administration’s unsteady relationship with the news media.
Bannon said in late January that the media — which he labeled the “opposition party” — should “keep its mouth shut and just listen” because reporters have “no f***ing idea what is going on.”
The White House strategist’s most recent comments came during a discussion about reports that President Donald Trump is unhappy with White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s performance. However, both Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus say Spicer’s job is safe, Byers reported:
“It’s totally and completely false,” Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, told me during a recent interview in the Roosevelt Room. “The president has full and total confidence in Sean.”
Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, told me the same: “The president has full confidence in Sean,” he said. “What he thinks is that this is a media narrative that’s B.S., that’s what he thinks.”
But while Bannon, a former executive at the Trump-friendly Breitbart News, might not have a problem with the fledgling administration’s poor reception with the media, Spicer is reportedly interested in maintaining a good White House-press relationship.
“The briefing is a TV show, and everybody knows it’s been a TV show for decades,” Ari Fleisher, who was former President George W. Bush’s first press secretary, told CNN. “So much of what the press is saying about Sean comes from the fact that they don’t like Donald Trump, and how hostile the relationship has become.”
“Donald Trump has played a role in this, and that makes it harder for Sean,” he added.
Relatedly, ABC News’ Jon Karl said earlier this week that he is concerned about Spicer’s health because he “spends so much time angry.”
But with Spicer’s job safe, at least according to Priebus and Bannon, where are the leaks coming from that suggest otherwise? Several sources told Byers they believe one woman is behind the rumors: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. More from Byers:
Though they offer no hard evidence, they say Conway is trying to offload blame for administration setbacks on Spicer to prove she is the more effective public advocate and earn a lasting place in the President’s inner circle.
“She’s clearly guiding a press narrative that he’s not up for the job, and that they’re reviewing other candidates,” one GOP strategist said. “It’s becoming abundantly clear that Kellyanne is making Sean’s job impossible.”
Rumors started last week, when the Washingtonian reported that former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, a longtime supporter of and spokesman for Trump, was being interviewed for the press secretary gig. The White House has since denied such reports.
News of Spicer’s possible ouster followed a rocky week for Conway, who became the subject of intense scrutiny for offering a “free commercial” for Ivanka Trump’s brand after retailer Nordstrom pulled her products from its shelves.
In response to the backlash against Conway, Spicer offered a curt response: “She’s been counseled.”
According to a report from The Associated Press, Trump was not happy with Spicer’s word choice regarding Conway because it made it sound as if the high-level staffer was in trouble.