| June 25, 2019 04:41 PM
President Trump didn’t look far for his new press secretary. In fact, he only looked down the corridor to his wife’s office, where Stephanie Grisham has been the first lady’s communications director for the past two years.
Welcome to the main stage, Stephanie.
Grisham’s responsibilities will far exceed her predecessor’s. Along with her new role, she will stay on as Melania Trump’s spokeswoman and represent the West Wing as both the White House director of communications and press secretary, according to the White House.
Few in Trump’s White House have lasted as long and moved up as quickly as Grisham. In the summer of 2015, she was a lower-tier press wrangler on Trump’s long-shot campaign, eventually landing in the first lady’s office before receiving a promotion to deputy chief of staff for communications late last year.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said Grisham is one of the few “unbroken threads” in the White House, and Grisham’s predecessor, Sarah Sanders, commented that Grisham has “developed a great amount of trust from both the president and the first lady, which is a pretty high commodity here.”
Grisham’s experience suggests she knows what to expect: As press secretary, she must defend Trump, his agenda, even his frequent inflammatory comments, and serve as a proxy between the administration and the public.
Trump might have immediate access to the public via Twitter, but Grisham’s role is still important. She must understand what’s on the president’s mind and translate it into a coherent message the rest of the administration and public can get behind. This is particularly important with a president who seems untethered to rational thinking and prudence.
Grisham’s background with Trump’s administration bodes well for her and the media: The president must trust his press secretary; the more trust there is, the more information he’ll share, which means greater access for the media.
There’s another critical part of the job that Grisham’s predecessor unfortunately lost: the media’s trust. Granted, few press secretaries have been viewed by the media as objective arbiters of truth. Their primary responsibility is, after all, to promote and defend the president and his agenda. But approaching this responsibility with a certain level of nuance could gap this bridge and make the White House press room a less combative environment.
Grisham should also recognize that she’s more than just the president’s advocate; she’s the media’s, as well. She will be responsible for making sure the interests of the press are heard and fairly represented in the White House, a challenging effort considering the president has labeled the media “the enemy of the people” several times over.
Grisham’s new job is perhaps one of the worst in the executive branch. Inevitably, she will be demonized by those who disagree with the administration, her words will be misconstrued, and her relationship with the president will be put to the test time and time again. Clarification and persistence will be Grisham’s greatest assets if she hopes to survive; she’d be wise to make them a priority.