WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If President Donald Trump, who refers to the media as “fake news,” wants his staff to use a more conciliatory approach with journalists, new communications director Anthony Scaramucci may be implementing such a shift - for now.
The Wall Street financier and Republican fundraiser walked into the White House briefing room on Friday and immediately did what Sean Spicer, the outgoing press secretary, did not do on his first day in January: engage, in a friendly manner, with reporters.
Wearing a blue tie and an American flag pin on a dark suit, Scaramucci bantered with correspondents, pledged to be transparent and even made respectful remarks about CNN, the cable network with which Trump and Spicer have sparred repeatedly.
He made fun of himself, joking about his short stature and apologizing to Trump from the podium for having called the New York businessman a hack politician in 2015.
“He brings it up every 15 seconds, all right?” Scaramucci said to laughter, referring to the president. “I should have never said that about him. So, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that.”
Trump was probably listening.
Reporters peppered Scaramucci with questions on press-related issues that have dogged the relationship between the Trump presidency and the journalists that cover it.
Did he support having briefings televised? “I obviously am committed to being transparent because I’m standing here. But I’d like to talk that over with the president,” he said.
He noted that CNN had apologized when it reported something false about him and that he had accepted the apology.
“There feels like there’s a little bit of media bias, and so what we hope we can do is de-escalate that and turn that around. And let’s let the message from the president get out there to the American people,” he said.
He announced the new press secretary to take over from Spicer, who resigned earlier on Friday, would be Sarah Sanders.
Spicer’s debut at the White House podium in January featured a long scolding of reporters for their portrayal of Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd numbers.
Asked on Friday whether he agreed with Trump’s contention, for which there is no evidence, that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, Scaramucci answered carefully.
“So if the president says it, let me do more research on it, but my guess is that there’s probably some level of truth to that,” he said.
“I think what we have found sometimes the president says stuff, some of you guys in the media think it’s not true or it isn’t true, and it turns out it’s closer to the truth than people think.”
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Michael Perry