Staff departures in today’s White House are common, and possibly no one knows this better than Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She has been a fixture since becoming press secretary in summer 2017 after the abrupt departure of Sean Spicer (page 7). And as a mouthpiece for President Donald Trump, Sanders finds herself frequently addressing the tumultuous comings and goings.
Here’s how Sanders went from governor’s daughter to White House press secretary, a distinct honor she received that predicted the future (page 3), and how she deals with frequent White House scandals (page 8).
1. She comes from a political family
Sanders grew up in the Arkansas governor’s mansion. She was in junior high school when her dad became governor in 1996. Leading up to that, she spent a chunk of her childhood campaigning for him.
“I always say that when most kids are seven or eight years old out jumping rope, she was sitting at the kitchen table listening to political commentators analyze poll results,” former Gov. Mike Huckabee told Fox News.
Next: What kind of student was she?
2. College days
Sanders graduated in 2004 from Ouachita Baptist University, a private liberal arts school in southwest Arkansas — the same college her father attended. While there, she served as student body president. She could always be counted on to do the reading and back it up with writing an essay, political science professor Hal Bass told Newsweek.
“I don’t recall ever seeing Sarah flustered, in a sense of being overwhelmed. She always seemed very much in control of situations,” Bass said. “Those attributes that I saw almost 20 years ago now are certainly serving her well today.”
Next: She earned this prestigious distinction.
3. She earned a spot on Time’s 40 under 40
In 2010, Sanders was named one of Time’s “40 Under 40” in politics. The magazine gave the distinction to “rising stars” called “a new generation of civic leaders.”
That year, Sanders (then 28) married Bryan Chatfield Sanders and ran John Boozman’s campaign for Senate. When Time asked her where she saw herself in five years, she responded, “If I am still working in politics I hope I never lose sight of why I got involved in the first place.”
Next: How she built up her political experience
4. A hefty political resume
Sanders has been heavily involved in politics since childhood, and you could probably say the stuff runs through her veins. She has the resume to prove it:
- Field director: Mike Huckabee’s 2002 Arkansas gubernatorial re-election campaign
- National political director: Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential bid
- Campaign manager: John Boozman’s successful 2010 Senate campaign
- Campaign manager: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2011 presidential campaign
- Adviser: Arkansas Senate candidate Tom Cotton in 2014
- Campaign manager: Mike Huckabee in the 2016 GOP presidential race
Next: Donald Trump recruited her.
5. She joined the Trump campaign
When her father dropped out of the presidential race in February 2016, the Trump campaign recruited Sanders to work as a senior adviser. “I volunteered to join Mr. Trump’s campaign because he is a champion of working families, not Washington-Wall Street elites,” Sanders said in a campaign statement.
Next: A permanent role in the White House
6. She took on a permanent White House job
When Donald Trump won the election, Sanders joined the administration as deputy White House press secretary. She filled in for communications director Sean Spicer in May 2017 when he had Naval Reserve Duty.
Sanders gave her second White House press briefing during a big news day for the administration. Trump had fired FBI director James Comey, and reporters wanted to know whether it had anything to do with Comey’s investigation into Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
“When viewers tuned in, they were shocked,” Newsweek wrote of the briefing. “She didn’t speak like Spicer, who would regularly get flustered and combative when reporters’ questions got tough.” It turned out the press preferred Sanders over Spicer for briefings.
Next: She took over for “Spicey.”
7. She took over Spicer’s job
When Spicer resigned in July 2017, newly appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci announced Sanders would take the role of press secretary. And Sanders’ first new conferences were well-received by the press.
However, in the following months, she occasionally snapped at reporters. In December 2017, she had a fiery exchange with CNN reporter Jim Acosta regarding Trump’s tweets and the media making mistakes in articles. “When journalists make honest mistakes, they should own up to them,” she said.
Next: How she handles questions on administration scandals
8. How she’s handling Trump administration scandals
There’s a lot going on in the White House these days, and reporters are eager to grill Sanders in her daily briefings. Here’s how she’s been handling some hot issues:
On FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe being fired one day prior to retirement: While Sanders said McCabe had “very troubling behavior,” she stopped short of calling for his firing. Rather, she told reporters, “That’s a determination that we would leave up to Attorney General (Jeff) Sessions.”
On adult film star Stormy Daniels: In her briefings, Sanders hasn’t provided much fodder for the press regarding the Stormy Daniels affair, maintaining the administration has already said all it’s going to say about it. (Daniels filed a lawsuit against Trump, alleging he never signed a nondisclosure agreement to keep her quiet about an intimate relationship in 2006 and 2007.)
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!