MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving the Trump administration. Not surprisingly, news of her departure, like so many White House personnel announcements, came in the form of a tweet from the president late this afternoon. To talk more about Sarah Sanders' tenure as press secretary, we're joined by NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Hey there.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.
KELLY: Why is Sanders leaving?
RASCOE: We don't know exactly, but there had been rumors for a while that she would be leaving. It's almost surprising that she stuck around this long. She's been in the job for almost two years. So it's not unusual to have a press secretary step down after that amount of time. And Sanders has been with the administration from the very beginning. It's a very high-stress role, and that takes a toll, being press secretary.
Sanders does have a young family which she often talks about. And she referenced her family when she spoke at this White House event today after President Trump announced that she's leaving. She said she hopes she can spend more time with her kids.
KELLY: Well, stay with this - that she was in the job for two years because this is not a White House known for a long tenures. I'm thinking back to Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted - what was it, like 10 days or something?
RASCOE: Yeah, a very short period of time.
KELLY: Yeah. I mean, how did Sanders manage to hang on for so long?
RASCOE: She was really able to kind of tap into that aggressive style that Trump really demands from his staff, that ability to go toe-to-toe with the media, throw insults around and really being unapologetic in standing resolutely behind whatever President Trump does. And unlike her predecessor, Sean Spicer, she was more quick on her feet behind the podium. And there were less kind of embarrassing gaffes for the administration.
Now, she absolutely angered her critics. And she was a major representative of the administration on some unpopular policies, including child separation. And she caught a lot of heat and anger for her actions. Last year, she was famously turned away from this Virginia restaurant that disagreed with her positions as press secretary.
KELLY: You said fewer embarrassing gaffes, Ayesha, but she managed to lose the trust of the White House press corps pretty early on. I mean, I'm thinking even back before she was officially named press secretary. Here is one moment. This was shortly after FBI Director James Comey was fired.
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SARAH SANDERS: Well, I can speak to my own personal experience. I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision.
KELLY: And, Ayesha, she had to walk that back and walk it back and walk it back. How did she handle that - her lack of credibility with reporters such as you?
RASCOE: Well, that's the thing. In many ways, she would just kind of double-down on these conflicting statements. And so I think that's why you saw a lot of tensions in these press briefings is that because even after the Mueller report came out, and it was pointed out that what she said about Comey was not true, she still claimed that her sentiment was correct, even if she shouldn't have said countless. So she really wasn't even backing down then.
And there were times where she talked about of the payment to adult film star or actress Stormy Daniels, that later - Trump would later admit that he did know about that she said he didn't. So there were a number of times where there were questions about the White House's commitment to the truth, and Sanders kind of played a role in that.
KELLY: Ninety-four days since Sanders held a press briefing, so we will see to what extent she is missed and who replaces her. That's NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe with news that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving. Thanks, Ayesha.
RASCOE: Thank you.
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