New comms chief in furious, vulgar rant

Tensions among senior White House staff boil over as chief of staff, strategist attacked

Tensions among President Donald Trump's senior White House staff burst into the open after his new communications chief Anthony Scaramucci let fly a profanity-laced rant at his colleagues, specifically chief of staff Reince Priebus.

Mr Scaramucci, handpicked by the President on July 21 for the role of communications director, had dinner with Mr Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox News director Bill Shine on Wednesday.

A journalist from The New Yorker, Mr Ryan Lizza, learnt about the dinner and tweeted about it. Mr Scaramucci, who has vowed to find and fire people in the White House who leak information to the media, called Mr Lizza and demanded the name of his source.

When the reporter refused, Mr Scaramucci, a former hedge fund manager from New York with no political or communications experience, said: "I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks.

"I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus - if you want to leak something - he'll be asked to resign very shortly."

He called Mr Trump's chief of staff " a (expletive) paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac". He also insulted the President's chief strategist, Mr Steve Bannon, with an extremely vulgar remark.

As reports of what he said began making waves, the unapologetic Mr Scaramucci tweeted: "I sometimes use colourful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda."

White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci (centre) let fly a foul-mouthed rant at chief strategist Steve Bannon (left) and chief of staff Reince Priebus over a perceived leak.
White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci (centre) let fly a foul-mouthed rant at chief strategist Steve Bannon (left) and chief of staff Reince Priebus over a perceived leak. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The backlash was swift, and it came from some conservatives as well.

Breitbart, the right-wing website that Mr Bannon co-founded, called the rant "outrageous and discordant". On Fox News, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer said: "None of us has ever seen this. The reason is that it is not to be done. That kind of language is not to be used, particularly when it's infighting in the White House."

There has been speculation in the media for some weeks that Mr Priebus has fallen out of favour with Mr Trump and may be replaced. It is also well known that Mr Priebus tried to block Mr Scaramucci from joining the President's staff.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has been touting the strength of the economy. On Wednesday, he had a special event to mark Taiwanese company Foxconn's US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) investment in Wisconsin. On Thursday, Mr Trump presented medals of valour to the five first responders who were injured when they tried to stop a gunman who opened fire on Republican Congressmen at a baseball practice last month.

But the infighting in the White House has dominated the media.

Mr Evan Siegfried, a Republican political strategist and commentator, told The Straits Times: "Anthony Scaramucci came in to try and calm and solidify the White House's messaging. Instead, he's created chaos. This needs to stop immediately because it is overshadowing the President's successes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2017, with the headline 'New comms chief in furious, vulgar rant'. Print Edition | Subscribe