Melania Trump's spokesman Stephanie Grisham to replace Sanders as White House press secretary

Grisham (above) will also hold the more strategic post of communications director.
Grisham (above) will also hold the more strategic post of communications director.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday (June 25) named Stephanie Grisham - until now spokesman for his wife Melania - the chief White House press secretary, taking over an office that has seen sharply deteriorating relations with the media.

The appointment, announced by Melania Trump on Twitter, replaces the outgoing Sarah Sanders, who oversaw the near ending of once traditional daily White House press briefings and fought repeatedly with journalists who accused her of lying.

Grisham will also hold the more strategic post of communications director, the first lady tweeted.

"I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director!" Melania Trump wrote.

"She has been with us since 2015 - @POTUS & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country."

Grisham is a Trump loyalist, having joined his presidential campaign back in 2015 and winning a reputation as a tough operator in the first lady's office.

Melania Trump's White House activities - principally a campaign for helping children that she calls #BeBest - receive relatively little media attention.

 
 

But Grisham revealed the behind-the-scenes power of the first lady during an unusual spat last November that effectively saw Melania Trump ordering deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel to be fired.

The dispute reportedly began when Ricardel was angered by seating arrangements on the government plane taking Melania Trump on a four-country tour of Africa, her first big solo foreign trip.

In a highly unusual move, Grisham issued a statement on Ricardel afterward that said: "It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House."

Shortly after, Ricardel found herself being shuffled to another role.

SANDERS LEAVES UNDER SHADOW

Sanders leaves her job under a considerable shadow.

Trump announced her exit in a tweet earlier this month and praised her as a "warrior."

Sharp, sometimes acid-tongued, Sanders has not been prone to the almost comic slip-ups that embarrassed predecessors in the job, such as short-lived Trump spokesman Anthony Scaramucci.

But she has earned a reputation for bruising clashes with journalists whom she finds over-critical - often echoing her boss's attacks on unfavourable coverage as "fake news."

Pressed during one particularly combative exchange with reporters to distance herself from Trump's characterisation of the media as the "enemy of the people," Sanders refused.

Sanders was also seen as responsible for the demise of the formal daily briefing - practically an institution under previous presidents.

Grisham has been fully supportive of Sanders, reacting to her departure by saying she would "miss her sincere love of country & great sense of humour at the @WhiteHouse."

Whether Grisham will revive the long established norms of the White House press office is an open question.

Her boss disdains what he calls the mainstream media and says he prefers to engage with the public via Twitter and other social media - effectively making himself his own press secretary.