Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director and press spokesman, couldn’t be more different from Sean Spicer, his predecessor. But he may prove to be just as entertaining.
Some of his early encounters with the press couldn’t be more promising in this regard. In fact, an account of one phone call (or rather, series of calls and social-media posts) to a reporter at The New Yorker has already achieved quasi-legendary status online.
The article, by The New Yorker’s Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza, narrates a few days of bizarre, frenetic interchanges between Scaramucci and Lizza. It centers on the former’s spiraling obsession with identifying and rooting out leakers in the White House, as well as his feud with White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
The straight-faced narration of these events is also a brilliant mini-character sketch of Scaramucci, about whom readers may draw their own conclusions.
According to Lizza, Scaramucci called him after Lizza tweeted that Trump was dining with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity, demanding to know: “Who leaked that to you?”
When Lizza declined to share the name of his source, a senior official in the White House, Scaramucci immediately threatened: “What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over.”
This was followed by a series of remarkable statements.
For example, Scaramucci’s claim that he has asked the FBI to investigate White House chief of staff Reince Priebus as a potential leaker. Repeated threats that he was about to fire the entire communications staff. And the observation, offered unbidden, that unlike Trump’s senior advisor Steve Bannon, “I’m not trying to suck my own cock” in terms of seeking media attention.
Generously seasoned with profanity, the exchanges are undeniably amusing, especially when you imagine Scaramucci’s remarks delivered with his hyperbolic New York tough-guy brio. For some reason, Scaramucci now wants to walk back portions of the interview, despite their obvious entertainment value.
For his part, Lizza claims he recorded the conversations, backing up his claims.
Priebus is a popular theme, reflecting Scaramucci’s suspicion that the White House chief of staff is leaking unflattering information about Scaramucci. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci tells Lizza at one point.
He speculates the chief of staff leaked to the press because he wasn’t invited to the dinner with other bigwigs. At one point, he imitates Priebus: “’Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing, and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’”
As a friend recently remarked to me: “This is not your grandfather’s presidency, is it?”