Donald Trump’s former White House press secretary has been trying her best to make up for years of lying on behalf of the president by spilling salacious secrets about her time working in the West Wing.
But Stephanie Grisham was forced to face up to her role in enabling Trump on Tuesday morning in a brutal interview on CNN’s New Day. In a relentless line of questioning, Grisham was asked why she failed to hold a single press conference in her time as press secretary, presented with several provable lies she told, and asked if her mistruths caused deaths.
Asked if she thinks that people died as a direct result of her role in how Trump’s White House responded to the coronavirus pandemic, Grisham responded: “I do. I think the way we handled COVID was tragic.”
The former press secretary said she should have done more to persuade Trump to wear a mask when he was seen in public, and added, “I think the president’s vanity got in the way. He was working for his base, he wasn’t working for this country... I was part of that and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself with respect to COVID. I don’t think I can ever redeem myself.”
Grisham was then asked why she’s now so keen to dump on Trump in her new book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now. As New Day host John Berman pointed out to her, Grisham started working for Trump and his campaign way back in 2015, giving her plenty of time to realize the kind of person he was before her resignation on the evening of Jan. 6 this year.
Confronted about her sudden realization that Trump was not a positive force in U.S. politics, Grisham said she had worked for then-First Lady Melania Trump in the East Wing for two years during her time inside the Trump administration, so, she claimed, she was not aware of the “toxic culture” in the West Wing before she took on her role as press secretary.
Attempting to explain why she hung on until this year, she said, “I really believed in them at first. I thought I had a friendship with [Melania] and I stayed too long. There’s just nothing else I can do or say about that.”
But Grisham’s interviewers didn’t let her off the hook and proceeded to skewer her for arguably her most shameful moment as press secretary—when she publicly trashed former White House chief of staff John Kelly. Kelly had said he made a fairly innocuous comment to Trump during his last day on the job, noting that hiring a “yes man” to succeed him would risk impeachment.
In a statement at the time, Grisham said, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”
Grisham admitted that she didn’t believe those words when she issued them to the press in 2019, telling CNN during the interview, “I don’t speak that way. [Trump] dictated that to me word for word... I remember, I sat down, I was on my bed, it was a weekend, and I called a couple of friends and said, ‘This sounds nuts, right?’ And they both said ‘Yes.’”
Trying to explain her actions, she said, “I, at the time, felt I was his spokesperson and he told me to do it. I knew he was probably sitting there watching TV waiting for it, and so I put it out. It’s one of my biggest regrets and I apologize to General and Mrs. Kelly in the book about it.”
Looking back, Grisham said she wished she’d never taken the job, concluding, “I had reached this pinnacle, I had reached my dream of being press secretary, which sadly I regretted the moment I kind of got there.”