Trump's New Message Man Is A Harvard-Educated Former Wall Streeter With Humble Roots
After six months of waiting in the wings in limbo, Anthony Scaramucci was welcomed Friday into the top echelon of the Trump administration.
The president named Scaramucci, a New York financier and Trump campaign fundraiser, as the new White House communications director, an appointment that promptly prompted the resignation of White House press secretary Sean Spicer and triggered the promotion of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had been Spicer's deputy, into the post of top West Wing spokesperson.
In a statement released Friday night, the White House expounded on Scaramucci's duties saying, "Scaramucci will oversee the entire communications operation, including message development and strategy." Unlike his predecessor, Mike Dubke, who was on the job a little over three months and had essentially reported to Spicer, Scaramucci will report directly to President Trump when he begins the new position on August 15.
The 53-year-old Harvard Law-graduate-turned-hedge-fund multimillionaire is a Wall Street creature who set his sights on the political world of Washington, D.C., with the rise of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race.
He is famously outspoken and known as a consummate salesman and even a schmoozer. He has been a presence on Fox Business Network, both as a ontime co-host of Wall Street Week and as a surrogate for the White House. After the financial crisis and the near collapse of his hedge fund company, SkyBridge Capital, he founded SALT, an annual conference in Las Vegas that draws the world's wealthiest hedge fund investors. And he was an adviser to Oliver Stone's 2010 film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps with a brief on-screen cameo.
The Long Island native is known to his friends as "The Mooch" and to former President George W. Bush, in particular, reportedly as "Gucci Scaramucci" because of his flashy fashion style. He was raised in a middle-class family in Port Washington, N.Y., and he told the New York Times, neither of his parents went to college.
One of his earliest jobs was selling motorcycles at his uncle's shop. At an event with Harvard Law students last year, he reminisced fondly about that period. "For me, my experience selling motorcycles in my uncle's shop showed me ... my passion [for sales]. So I tapped into that passion, and now I am doing what I love," he said, referring to managing SkyBridge Capital.
A longtime Republican, Scaramucci became an integral member of the Trump orbit in recent years by using his connections to many of the world's richest investors to raise millions in donations for the Trump campaign. But since serving on the administration's transition team, Scaramucci suffered one political disappointment after another — until his White House appointment Friday.
After Trump won, Scaramucci sold SkyBridge, which manages approximately $11 billion in hedge fund investments, to a Chinese conglomerate. It was a preemptive move intended to eliminate any potential financial conflicts of interest, theoretically clearing the path for a political post that was sure to come. But that job was slow to materialize due to delays in gaining approval of the sale from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The agency ensures there is no national security threat in the sale of American businesses to foreign companies.
He was under consideration to serve as director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs but, according to Politico, the required ethics review was taking too long so Priebus asked Scaramucci to withdraw his name from the running.
At an appearance at the SALT Conference last month, Scaramucci told Reuters, that he was "hurt that his elderly parents, including his mother who is battling cancer, were disinvited from [the] swearing-in ceremony" when the appointment was thwarted.
He was also briefly up for a post as U.S. ambassador to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But, finally in June Scaramucci became a senior vice president and chief strategy officer at the Export-Import Bank. His main role was supposed to be to "assess how the Export-Import Bank can better capitalize upon opportunities to support American jobs by financing American exports," Politico reported.
Scaramucci has been vociferous and unwavering in his support for Trump since the spring of 2016 but it wasn't always so. And since the announcement that he will be taking the helm of the administration's embattled communications team, he's been furiously deleting social media traces of his initial opposition to Trump and evidence of his more liberal views that would appear to contradict the GOP's platform.
He acknowledged the effort on Twitter Saturday. "Full transparency: I'm deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn't be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that's all that matters," he wrote.
In 2012 Scaramucci tweeted out a link to a National Journal article about Trump endorsing Newt Gingrich in the presidential race, writing: "Odd guy. So smart with no judgement[.]"
In December 2015, he criticized Trump for his campaign promise to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico: "Walls don't work. Never have never will. The Berlin Wall 1961-1989 don't fall for it."
He also has a long a public history of taking a progressive stand on hot-button issues for both parties. Among the many messages he has now deleted are some on climate change, gun control, gay marriage and a woman's right to choose.
Scaramucci has an uncanny ability to remember peoples' names — a skill that was on display during his first press briefing Friday, where he called on some reporters by their first names.
And he is often praised for his enthusiasm in highlighting his professional mistakes and shortcomings in public, a quality that sets him apart from some wealthy business-types who often prefer to tout their successes over their failures. He has been known to regale audiences with stories about failing the bar exam twice, getting fired from Goldman Sachs after seven years on the job and almost losing his entire business after the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Politico reports, one of the factors that tipped Trump to hire Scaramucci over the reported objections of Priebus and Spicer, was the businessman's triumph over CNN last month. The network in a story had claimed Senate investigators were looking into a meeting between Scaramucci and an executive from a Russian investment fund.
Scaramucci complained to the cable TV network, disputing the report and, after an internal investigation, CNN determined that some of its standard editorial processes had not been followed before the story was published online. CNN depublished the story online, then officially retracted it, apologized to Scaramucci and accepted the resignations of three employees.
In an interview on Breitbart News Saturday, Scaramucci said his goal is to get Trump's unfiltered message through to his base of supporters through Twitter and he moved closer to stating outright a sentiment he'd hinted at while holding forth with the White House press corps Friday: The mainstream media is biased against Trump.
"We have enough outlets, whether it's Breitbart, the president's social media feed, all of the different apparatus that we have, where people will allow us to deliver our message to the American people unfiltered," Scaramucci said on the show. "We're having a rough time with the mainstream media, but last time I checked during the campaign we were having a rough time with the mainstream media and the people see through it."
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.