White House press secretary Sean Spicer had been a staple of the news cycle (and Saturday Night Live's sketch lineup) since the beginning of Donald Trump's presidency. But in the early months of the administration, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took on an increasingly prominent role, often handling the press briefings. On July 21, Spicer resigned from his role and deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took over the position. Here's what you need to know about the 34-year-old woman who acts as a spokesperson for the president.
1. She's Mike Huckabee's daughter.
If Sanders's name sounds familiar, that's because she's the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
She and her dad are close. In 2010, she told Time that her father was her political hero. "He's an amazing politician, but an even better parent," she said. "Everyday he challenges me to be a better person and I will forever be grateful for that."
She has two older brothers, but according to her brother David, she's the "the chosen one." “She is the only girl, and the youngest, and unquestionably spoiled,” her father told Yahoo.
And the father and daughter speak most mornings before 6, according to the Associated Press. "I'll call and say, 'What do you think if I say this?' He'll say, 'That's really good. You might try to say it a little bit more like X,'" she told the AP.
Her father also says he's heard praise from the president. “Every time I talk to him, he’ll say, ‘Huckabee, I like you. You’re a great guy. You’re terrific, but your daughter, she’s so much better. She’s so much better,’” Huckabee said.
2. She headed straight to Washington after college.
According to a Time profile from 2007, Sanders considered going to law school but instead she dove directly into the political world. Right after graduating from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas (which also happens to be her dad's alma mater), she moved to Washington to take a job with the Department of Education under the Bush administration.
3. She has worked as a political consultant.
Sanders has worked on several campaigns as a political consultant. In 2010, she managed Arkansas Republican John Boozman's successful run for the Senate. She's also served as senior adviser to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton.
She and her husband, Bryan Sanders, founded Second Street Strategies, a consulting firm that provides "general consulting services, including strategy, research, polling, message development, and advertising production and placement for candidates, independent expenditure committees, businesses, and non-profits."
4. She has worked on several presidential campaigns.
Sanders got her start on campaigns working with her father, first during his 2002 reelection campaign as governor, and later in his presidential runs in 2008 and 2016.
Her experience isn't limited to working with her dad though. In 2004, she worked as a field coordinator in Ohio on George W. Bush's reelection campaign.
5. She was a senior adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign.
I volunteered to join Mr. Trump's campaign because he is a champion of working families; not Washington-Wall Street elites. Like the other Republican candidates, Mr. Trump is pro-life, pro-marriage and will appoint conservatives to the courts. What makes Mr. Trump my choice for president is he will break the grip of the donor class on our government and make it accountable to working families again. I'm honored to help Mr. Trump make America great again.
Sanders wasn't the only one in her family to go all-in on Trump. In November, her father Mike Huckabee vowed to "remember" the Republicans who hadn't backed the now-president during the campaign.
"I'm going to tell you something. I'm going to remember them," Gov. Huckabee said during an appearance on Fox News. "And I hope every other Republican remembers them. Don't ever ask me for your vote again because you're done."
6. She has publicly praised President Barack Obama.
In her Time 40 Under 40 interview, Sanders was asked what she saw as the most overlooked issue facing America. In her reply, she offered up some praise for then-President Barack Obama.
"America needs more fathers taking an active role in their children's lives," she said. "Kids who are the victims of broken families are more likely to end up in poverty, rehab, or jail. I'm a Republican, but I respect President Obama for setting the right example and addressing this problem. I hope more people will join him in his efforts."
7. She began acting as President Trump's spokesperson when she was deputy press secretary.
When White House press secretary Sean Spicer withdrew from the spotlight, Sanders stepped up to take his place defending the Trump administration's policies (and the president's personal statements and tweets) publicly.
She was tasked with speaking with the press about Trump's allegations the Obama administration tapped his phones during the 2016 presidential election, including a heated one-on-one interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz on March 5, 2017.
During the interview, Raddatz grilled Sanders on the source of Trump's claims and called her out repeatedly for framing the situation as a request for an investigation into if the alleged wiretapping occurred even though Trump himself used definitive language in his tweets.
RADDATZ: Well, what about these accusations? You keep saying, if, if, if. The president of the United States said it was a fact. He didn't say, "I read a story in Breitbart or the New York Times or wherever else." He said, "[I] just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower." That's not an if.
SANDERS: Look, I - I will let the president speak for himself. But in terms of where we are in the White House, our ask -
RADDATZ: You're his spokesperson.
SANDERS: And I'm speaking about it right now.
RADDATZ: But you're backing off of it. You're backing off of it.
SANDERS: How am I backing off of it while I'm saying that I think that this happened -
RADDATZ: Because you're saying if.
Things also got tense for Sanders during a March 6 Good Morning America interview with George Stephanopoulos. The anchor repeatedly stopped Sanders during her answers to correct misinformation she was disseminating.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We now know that the FBI director has told the Justice Department that President Trump's explosive claims are inaccurate. Does President Trump accept the FBI director's denial?
SANDERS: You know, I don't think he does, George. I think he firmly believes that this is a storyline that has been reported pretty widely by quite a few outlets. The wiretapping has been discussed in the New York Times, BBC, Fox News, and we believe that it should be looked at by the House Intelligence Committee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, I have to stop you. Sarah, I have got to stop you right there. Every single article you just mentioned does not back up the president's claim that President Obama had him wiretapped. Not a single one of those articles backs that up. So, what is the president's evidence?
SANDERS: It does back up the fact that the administration was wiretapping American citizens. There was wide reporting suggesting that his administration, whether it was directly ordered by this president specifically, his administration could have done this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, I have got to stop you again. No, Sarah, I have got to stop you again because that is simply not true. All the articles you just mentioned, not one of them says that President Trump ordered a wiretap.
Later in the interview with Stephanopoulos, Sanders used a peculiar analogy to describe how she views Trump's relationship with the media.
"Frankly, George, I think if the president walked across the Potomac, the media would report that he can't swim," she said.
She used the same analogy in an interview on NBC's Today show:
In early May 2017, Sanders went on TV to defend Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey. She told Tucker Carlson it was "time to move on" from the Russia investigation, and during an exchange on Morning Joe over the Russia investigation, she claimed everyone - " the House committees, the Senate committees, the FBI" - had looked into it and come to the same conclusion that there was no collusion. Mika Brzezinski responded: "You're actually not telling the truth right now."
8. She has three young children.
Sanders moved her young family to Washington to be part of the Trump administration, according to the Associated Press. Sanders and her husband, political consultant Bryan Sanders, have three young children together.
9. She filled in for Sean Spicer during press briefings.
On May 5, Sanders took to the podium during a daily White House press briefing. She was filling in for press secretary Sean Spicer while he was fulfilling his duty as a Navy reservist. According to CNN, she briefed reporters off-camera the day before about the switch, saying, "Sean is actually on Navy Reserve duty, so you guys are stuck with me - today and tomorrow. So brace yourselves for a fun 24 hours."
The Hill noted that the room was less full than usual, likely because Trump was in New York meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Either way, her dad was proudly watching, on multiple channels.
Proud of daughter Sarah subbing at WH press briefing today. Her Dad thinks she crushed it! Hey I'm as unbiased as the media! pic.twitter.com/txXD10ocMf- Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) May 5, 2017
On May 10, it was announced that she would fill in for Sean Spicer for the rest of the week while he fulfilled his U.S. Navy Reserve duties - a big news week considering Trump had just fired Comey the day before. In her briefing that day, she said Comey committed "basic atrocities" as director. She handled the briefing the next day as well, but then the White House announced that Spicer would return that Friday.
On May 18, Politico reported that Spicer was expected to stop giving the daily briefings. One source told the outlet Sanders would take over, while another said the White House would be cutting down on on-camera briefings in general.
10. She has a contentious relationship with the media.
Sanders has echoed Trump's disdain for many traditional media outlets, including CNN, which retracted a story about the Trump campaign's alleged connections to Russia.
On June 27, Sanders slammed the media during a White House press briefing, accusing journalists of perpetuating "fake news" and arguing Americans "deserve something better." Reporter Brian Karem fired back, accusing her of "inflaming" everyone with her rhetoric, and insisting journalists are just trying to do their jobs. The back and forth happened just a day after the president of the White House Correspondents' Association met with Spicer and Sanders to discuss the future of press briefings as a whole.
"The fact is: I like Sarah Sanders. I like Sean Spicer. I like most of the people I’ve met who work in this administration," Karem wrote in a Playboy column. "But I don’t like bullies and I don’t like the entire institution of the press and free speech being castigated for no other reason than we either get stories wrong - which happens, and it should be then responsibly corrected - or because we report news the president doesn’t like - which seems to happen even more often than getting stories wrong."
11. She took over the press secretary role after six months.
After Sean Spicer resigned July 21, following the announcement that New York financier Anthony Scaramucci would become communications director, Scaramucci said at a press briefing that Sanders would take over the role of press secretary.
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