Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Thursday made the surprise announcement of the departure of spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, who has been widely criticized for her performance in the White House.
Trump announced her exit in a tweet and did not name a replacement.
“After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas,” Trump he said, adding that he hoped she would run for governor of her state.
Sanders has been one of Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers, almost constantly at his side during his tumultuous two and a half years at the White House and during the campaign before.
At a White House event on reintegration into society for ex-prisoners, Trump interrupted proceedings to summon the “warrior” Sanders from the audience and lavish praise on her record.
Calling her “a friend, a woman, a great, great magnificent person,” Trump said, “she’s very popular.”
In fact, Sanders has a combative, sometimes bitter relationship with the White House press corps and is seen as responsible for the demise of the formal daily briefing — practically an institution under previous presidents.
The last time she took to the podium for a back-and-forth with reporters in the White House briefing room was March 11. Instead, she communicates largely through interviews on the president’s favorite TV network Fox News and short, informal briefings with other journalists outdoors.
She has also been accused of telling lies to reporters, although she denies this.
Despite Sanders’ damaged reputation in media circles, there’d been no hint from the administration that her exit was imminent.
Sanders’ father Mike Huckabee is a former Republican governor of Arkansas.
Called up to the microphone by Trump at the ex-prisoners’ event, Sanders said she would “try not to get emotional, because I know crying can make us look weak.”
In a brief address, the spokeswoman praised Trump and her colleagues at the White House, saying she “loved every minute” of the job.
“I’m going to continue to be one of the most outspoken and loyal supporters of the president and his agenda and I know he’s going to have an incredible six more years and get a lot more done,” she said.
She made no mention of the media or the role of journalists at the White House.
Photo: outgoing White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says she loved her job, but she has been widely criticized for halting the long-established daily briefings (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)