It looks as if White House press secretary Sean Spicer isn't the only official spokesperson for the White House having a hard time sounding credible while talking to the press.
On Tuesday, Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that former FBI Director James Comey had been let go because “rank-and-file” FBI employees had “lost confidence” in him. She added he had “politicized” his role, contending that even the FBI had acknowledged Comey had given inaccurate information to Congress recently.
Today, during a press briefing, Sanders added more fuel to the fire by saying that she had “personally” spoken to “countless” FBI employees who applauded President Donald Trump's decision to let Comey go.
'Really?': A reporter calls out Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ claim that ‘countless’ FBI employees were happy with Comey’s firing pic.twitter.com/NBIch3lqWa— Business Insider (@businessinsider) May 11, 2017
At a certain moment during the briefing, Sanders was asked what led the White House “to believe that [Comey] had lost the confidence of the bureau's employees when the acting [FBI] Director [Andrew McCabe] says it's exactly the opposite.”
Sanders replied by saying she could speak to her own personal experience, and that she had heard “from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision.”
Finding her explanation hard to believe, another reporter pressed on.
“You personally,” he stressed, “have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened?”
To which Sanders simply replied: “Correct.”
He continued: “I mean, really?”
Sanders then tried to, not so smoothly, take the focus away from the “countless” assertion.
“Between like, email, text messages, absolutely,” she said.
As the reporter pressed her on a number, saying “50? 60? 70?” Sanders showed his query had gotten to her.
“I mean, look. We're not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said they are very happy with the president's decision,” she concluded.
What's difficult about comments such as this is that they are hard to track and verify. Unless Sanders shows the specific phone conversations she's had with FBI officials about their lack of trust in Comey, the statements remain unsubstantiated. But even then, would an actual FBI agent confide in a press secretary? Unlikely.
Still, it's incredibly untactful to approach this subject in such a manner. After all, does the president simply make his decisions by relying on hearsay? If what Sanders says is factual, then maybe the answer is yes.
Unless the White House can produce evidence that Trump's decision to fire Comey hasn't had anything to do with the Russia probe, it will be hard to dismiss the press, which will continue to pressure both Sanders and Spicer on this subject until real answers are produced.