Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
Since becoming White House press secretary on July 1, Stephanie Grisham has held zero press briefings. Instead, Grisham has found the time to grant interviews to some of President Donald Trump’s favorite current and former Fox News hosts.
It is not new that Grisham appears on Fox News, or that Grisham tells pro-Trump lies. Sarah Sanders certainly did both quite a bit while she held the office.
But it is new that Grisham appears virtually only on Fox News.
Grisham’s particular innovation is to move the entire office of White House press secretary into the world of Fox News and Fox-adjacent media. After giving her first TV interview to Sinclair’s Eric Bolling (who was fired by Fox for sending unsolicited explicit photos to coworkers), Grisham did three interviews on Fox & Friends, and one each on Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs Tonight, Watters’ World, and Outnumbered Overtime with Harris Faulkner. She has also done a subsequent interview with Bolling. Instead of actually briefing the press at the White House, Grisham treats her duties as press secretary as complaining to pro-Trump pundits about how unfair everyone else is to the president.
During her first Fox & Friends appearance as White House press secretary, Grisham defended Trump’s decision to suspend press briefings because they “had become a lot of theater,” and many reporters were “getting famous off of this presidency” and “weren’t being good to his people.”
The same day, Grisham also appeared on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, where she complained that the media is unfair to Donald and Melania Trump and asserted that she doesn’t need to do press briefings because Trump is “the most accessible president in history.” Grisham claimed her “job is to talk about what he’s doing and communicate his policies, and I can do that in an array of ways, which — that’s what we’re doing and it’s just working out fine.”
Grisham’s next Fox appearance came about three weeks later, when she again defended the continuing lack of press briefings, saying, “This president speaks for himself every day.” She said, “I’m doing TV interviews, I’m doing many, many print interviews … It seems to be working right now.” Grisham also defended White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission of a quid pro quo between Trump delivering U.S. aid to Ukraine and Ukraine investigating the Biden family, claiming that the media response was simply “more theater” from “people wanting to be on TV and making names from themselves.”
Later that night, Grisham talked to Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, who said that Mulvaney’s line that the press should “get over it” is “a terrific slogan” and “a pretty good mantra for the White House right now.” “I couldn’t agree with you more,” she told Dobbs.
The following week, Grisham was back on Fox & Friends, defending House Republicans’ stunt of storming a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) on Capitol Hill, compromising the SCIF’s security by bringing in unsecured cell phones. Grisham said that she was “glad they did it. … These Dems have been doing everything behind closed doors and in secret. And so, it’s about time that somebody made a very bold stand.” In response to a question about the president referring to his critics as “scum,” she also said that Trump shouldn’t regret the comment because those people are trying to “take away from the good work he’s doing on behalf of the American people, they deserve strong language like that.”
On Saturday, October 26, Grisham went on Jesse Watters’ show and defended Trump’s complaint that the impeachment inquiry targeting him is a “lynching,” falsely arguing that it’s “a mob action happening by the Dems.” Grisham went on to attack the media for calling Trump racist and complained, “The American people are being so underserved by the mainstream media. They are not being told so many facts and it’s so disappointing.”
After the House of Representatives voted in favor of the impeachment inquiry process on October 31, Grisham went on Outnumbered Overtime to incredulously complain that “this impeachment sham” isn’t giving Trump due process, ask if Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) plans to release any transcripts from the inquiry’s first phase (Schiff said more than two weeks earlier that he would), and lie twice that the Ukraine call summary is a transcript that exonerates the president.
Grisham ended her latest Fox appearance by blaming House Democrats for a lack of enacted legislation, and admonishing them “to stop with the temper tantrums and get to work.” In reality, Trump ally Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has publicly bragged about blocking Senate votes on the bills that the House passed.
Grisham has claimed her communications strategy — giving interviews to the president’s favorite Fox News sycophants and grousing about the same Trump-centric grievances over and over again — “seems to be working right now.” And her appearances on friendly Fox shows are increasing as the president becomes imperiled by the escalating House impeachment inquiry. By shutting out the vast majority of cable networks and broadcast news to instead have friendly sit-downs with Trump’s favorite former and current Fox News hosts, Grisham’s media strategy seems aimed at reassuring the president while evading hard questions about a White House in perpetual crisis.
Update (12 p.m.): Hours after this piece was posted, Grisham appeared on Fox’s America’s Newsroom. Asked when will she hold a White House briefing, Grisham said that there are no such plans and that “right now, we’re doing just fine.”