Donald Trump's Press Secretaries

List and Bios of Every Spokesman for the 45th President

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Updated by Robert Longley 

Donald Trump's first press secretary was Sean Spicer, a former communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee. The 45th president named Spicer to the position on Dec. 22, 2016, about a month before taking the Oath of Office.

Spicer, the longest-serving spokesman for the RNC and described as an "old hand" inside the Washington Beltway, was frequently critical of the mainstream media's coverage of Trump and politics in general.

"The default narrative is always negative. And that's demoralizing," Spicer said at the outset of his tenure as Trump's press secretary.

The function of the White House press secretary is to serve as a liaison between the president and the new media. They are primarily responsible for dealing with news reporters in the Trump White House. As of June 2020, Trump has had four press secretaries. The job is a demanding one, and most presidents go through several during their tenure in the White House. Trump's predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, had three press secretaries during his two terms in office, for example.

Sean Spicer

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer calls on a reporter during a briefing in 2017. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Spicer is a seasoned political operative whose work with the Republican Party often placed him in the limelight even before his position in the Trump White House. He served for 182 days, leaving the job on July 21, 2017.

He works as a contributor for Fox News Channel as of 2019.

He was not on the same side as Trump on some key issues but pledged his allegiance to the wealthy businessman after taking on the job.

In an interview with his hometown television station, WPRI, Spicer described Trump as “caring and gracious” and said one of his goals as press secretary was to present that side of the president to Americans. Of Trump's use of Twitter to communicate with citizens, Spicer said:

“He does communicate in a much bigger way than ever’s been done before, and I think that’s going to be a really exciting part of the job."

Spicer's mother told the Providence Journal newspaper in Rhode Island that her son was hooked on politics at a young age. "The seed was planted his senior year in high school. All of a sudden he was hooked," she said.

Earlier Jobs

  • February 2011 through 2016: Communications director for the Republican National Committee. Spicer also served as the party's chief strategist; he was the primary negotiator in discussions over the primary debate format in 2016.
  • July 2006 through January 2009: Assistant U.S. trade representative for media and public affairs under President George W. Bush.
  • May 2005 to July of 2006: Communications director for the House Republican Conference. In that role, he oversaw media training for members of the House and their press secretaries. 
  • January 2003 to May 2005: Communications director for the House Budget Committee.
  • 2000: Director of incumbent retention for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2000 election. In that role, he oversaw the re-election campaigns of 220 members of the House.

Controversies

Spicer got off to a rocky start with the White House press corps when he falsely claimed Trump drew "the largest audience to witness an inauguration." Spicer claimed photographs showing Obama's 2008 inauguration appeared to draw more people were doctored to humiliate Trump. "Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," Spicer said at a White House press briefing. 

Spicer added that his intention was to never lie to the press.

Criticism of Trump

Before Trump chose him for press secretary, Spicer criticized the candidate over his criticism of Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain. Trump claimed in July 2015 that McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was "not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Spicer, speaking on behalf of the Republican National Committee, directly responded to Trump's comments, saying:

"Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period. There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.” 

Spicer also criticized Trump's comments that the U.S. had become a "dumping ground" for Mexico's worst criminals. Said Trump:

"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Spicer, speaking for the Republican Party, said: “I mean, as far as painting Mexican Americans with that kind of a brush, I think that’s probably something that is not helpful to the cause.”

Personal Life

Spicer is a native of Barrington, Rhode Island.

He is the son of Kathryn and Michael W. Spicer. His mother is the manager of the East Asian Studies department at Brown University, according to the university's website. His father, Michael W. Spicer, died in December 2016. He worked in the insurance industry. 

Spicer graduated from Portsmouth Abbey School and Connecticut College in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in government. He earned a master's degree from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. At the time of his appointment, Spicer was a Navy commander with 17 years experience in the reserves, according to the Military Times.

He is married and lives in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Sarah Sanders

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a longtime political adviser and campaign manager, was Sean Spicer's deputy press secretary. She took over the job when he suddenly resigned, becoming the third female White House press secretary in history.

Sanders used her Arkansas background to her advantage, opening press conferences with folksy stories of average Americans. When the press asked unfriendly questions immediately afterward, they could appear harsh by comparison.

Sanders grew up the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and worked on his campaigns. But even as a child was interested in politics when her preacher father made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 1992.

She told The Hill of that effort:

"He didn't really have much of a staff, so our family has been very engaged and very supportive of my dad. I was stuffing envelopes, I was knocking on doors, I was putting up yard signs."

Sanders studied political science and mass communications in college and subsequently worked on several of her father's campaigns. She also was involved in the efforts of other Republicans, including acting as a field coordinator for President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

She left the White House on July 1, 2019 after 1 year, 340 days on the job. She signed on to be a Fox News contributor and was rumored to be considering a run for her father's old job as Arkansas governor.

Earlier Jobs

  • Trump campaign adviser and deputy White House press secretary.
  • Regional liaison for congressional affairs at the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Field coordinator for the George W. Bush re-election campaign in Ohio.
  • Founding partner of Second Street Strategies in Little Rock, Ark. The firm provides consulting services for Republican campaigns.

Controversies

Sanders was often criticized for making statements to the press that they deemed to be untrue. These included a June 29, 2017 statement by Sanders that "president in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence," even though Trump told supporters during a campaign event when protesters began interrupting:

"So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? ... I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise."

In November 2018, Sanders also came under fire for tweeting a video after a verbal spat between Trump and CNN reporter Jim Acosta. Acosta attempted to grab a microphone from a White House intern during the spat, but the edited video by Paul Joseph Watson of the website Infowars made it appear Acosta was aggressive to the female intern.

Sanders and her family were asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in June 2018 because of her connection to Trump. Supporters of Trump and Sanders protested outside the restaurant, which was forced to shut down for a time. Sanders and her husband left when asked, but when an employee of the restaurant tweeted about the incident, Sanders responded publicly. That brought about criticism that she had used her office illegally to suppress a private business.

Sanders also stopped holding daily press briefings, setting three records for the longest streak between formal briefings: 41, 42 and 94 days. The latter ended when she left office.

Personal Life

Sanders is a native of Hope, Ark.

She the daughter of Mike Huckabee and Janet McCain Huckabee, and has two brothers. She majored in political science and minored in mass communications at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

She met her husband, Bryan Sanders, while both were working on her father's 2008 presidential campaign. They were married in 2010 and have three children.

Stephanie Grisham

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham visits "Mornings With Maria" with Anchor Maria Bartiromo.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham visits "Mornings With Maria" with Anchor Maria Bartiromo. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Stephanie Grisham took over as White House communications director and press secretary in July 2019. She was a member of Trump's transition team and worked on the communications staff before becoming first lady Melania Trump's press secretary in March 2017.

Grisham is a native of Arizona where she worked in that state's Republican politics before joining Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. Trump reportedly was unhappy to lose her to the first lady when she moved to the East Wing. Melania Trump tweeted happily when announcing she would be coming back:

"I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 - @potus & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse."

Trump largely handles his own press briefings, and Grisham has continued Sarah Sanders' practice of not holding daily press briefings.

Earlier Jobs

  • Owner of communications firm Sound Bite Public Relations
  • Spokeswoman for AAA Arizona
  • Spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne
  • Spokeswoman for the Arizona House of Representatives Republican caucus
  • Spokeswoman for Arizona House Speaker David Gowan
  • Mitt Romney 2012 presidential campaign

Controversy

She was criticized for describing the botched execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood III as "peaceful" after other witnesses said he was gasping for air.

“There was no gasping of air. There was snoring,” Grisham, who was spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and a witness to the execution said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He just laid there. It was quite peaceful.”

Personal Life

Grisham was married to Dan Marries, a Tucson, Ariz., news anchor, with whom she has two children.

Kayleigh McEnany

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Political author and pundit Kayleigh McEnany was named the nation’s 31st and President Trump’s fourth White House press secretary on April 7, 2020. In her new role, McEnany replaced Stephanie Grisham, who remained in the Trump administration as First Lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and spokesperson. Before coming to the White House, McEnany worked as a producer of the Huckabee on Fox News TV show and later as a political commentator on CNN. In 2017, she took over as the Republican National Committee’s lead spokesperson.

Early Career

During the 2012 election, she publicly backed the birther movement’s unfounded conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama. As the 2016 presidential campaign began, McEnany was critical of still-potential nominee Trump, referring to his derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants as “racist” and “inauthentic” of true Republicans. After Trump won the nomination, however, she became one of his staunchest supporters. Despite vowing to “never lie to you,” her actual truthfulness has been questioned since the day took over as Trump’s press secretary.

As White House Press Secretary

In April 2020, McEnany defended Trump's claims that the World Health Organization (WHO) had endangered American lives during the coronavirus pandemic by “repeating inaccurate claims peddled by China” and “opposing the United States' life-saving travel restrictions” imposed by the White House.

She has been criticized for suggesting that Trump’s remarks that coronavirus might be cured by injecting disinfectant had simply taken out of context. In May 2020, she defended Trump’s unfounded claim that conservative TV host Joe Scarborough had a person murdered. The same month, she defended Trump’s claim that vote by mail had a “high propensity for voter fraud,” despite having voted by mail 11 times in 10 years herself.

In June 2020, McEnany defended Trump’s decision to forcibly remove people peacefully protesting the police killing of George Floyd from the street in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, near the White House so that he could stage a photo op holding a Bible while referring to himself as the “law-and-order president.” In her press conference, she likened Trump’s walk to the church through lingering clouds of tear gas to Winston Churchill’s defiant walks through the bomb-damaged streets of London during World War II. When Trump’s former Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis criticized the president’s actions, McEnany called Mattis’ comments as “little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite.”

Personal Life and Education

Born in Tampa, Florida, on April 18, 1988, McEnany majored in international politics at Georgetown University and studied abroad at Oxford. After graduating from Georgetown, she produced the Mike Huckabee Show for three years before returning to college at the University of Miami School of Law. She then transferred to Harvard Law School, graduating in 2016.

In November 2017, McEnany married Sean Gilmartin, a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays major league baseball team. They have one daughter, Blake, born in November 2019.

Other Spokespeople

Kellyanne Conway is a senior Trump adviser
Kellyanne Conway is a senior Trump adviser who also serves as a spokeswoman. Getty Images

Several other key aides serve as spokespeople for the president. They include Kellyanne Conway, who served as Trump's campaign manager and became a senior adviser to the president after he took office. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also spoke on behalf of the president in his role as a top adviser. 

Larry Kudlow, the director of Trump's National Economic Council, often speaks on economic issues, and Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, also speaks to the press on the president's behalf.