WASHINGTON – Former Obama administration officials strongly disputed White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham's claim that they left nasty notes behind for President Donald Trump's incoming team after the January 2017 inauguration.
"We came into the White House – I'll tell you something – every office was filled with Obama books, and we had notes left behind that said, 'you will fail,' 'you aren't going to make it,'"Grisham said Tuesday during an interview with conservative radio host John Fredericks, whose eponymous network labels itself "America's Godzilla of TRUTH!"
"Really?" Fredericks asked her.
"Yes, in the press office there was a big note taped to a door that said 'you will fail,'" she said. She called the alleged notes "sad" and "pathetic," but said it was "something we're used to."
"Thankfully, the campaign trained" us "to be tough and to fight," she said.
"This is another bald faced lie," tweeted former national security adviser Susan Rice after CNN correspondent Abby Phillip shared Grisham's claim on Twitter.
Rice was not the only person to serve under former President Barack Obama who took issue with Grisham's allegation.
"This is a lie," tweeted Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under Obama. "If this happened, I also don’t think the entire Trump staff would wait 3 years to tell us."
He said it was "sad to see" Grisham "fall this far."
This is a lie. If this happened I also don’t think the entire Trump staff would wait 3 years to tell us. Sad to see the WH press secretary fall this far https://t.co/4JMlk5Ok2J— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) November 19, 2019
"Produce the notes that back this up," said former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. "I cannot imagine a single one of my former colleagues who would do this."
Jarrett said that from Obama "on down, we all tried to help facilitate a smooth and orderly transition, just as President Bush and his team had done for us."
Produce the notes that back this up. I cannot imagine a single one of my former colleagues who would do this. From @BarackObama on down, we all tried to help facilitate a smooth and orderly transition just as President Bush and his team had done for us. https://t.co/tjY3zGdRX8— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) November 19, 2019
"This is absolutely not true," said Chris Lu, a former deputy secretary of Labor.
"Obama repeatedly and publicly praised Bush cooperation during 2009 transition, and pledged we would provide same cooperation to whoever followed us. And that’s what we did," he said, before adding, "If Grisham is correct, why has it taken 3 years to come out?"
This is absolutely not true.— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) November 19, 2019
Obama repeatedly and publicly praised Bush cooperation during 2009 transition, and pledged we would provide same cooperation to whoever followed us. And that’s what we did.
If Grisham is correct, why has it taken 3 years to come out? https://t.co/QpN4JAGxhq
I was there. This is a complete and utter lie. Quite the opposite -- we left them briefing books to try to help with the transition as much as possible. https://t.co/WxMNIiwBuV— Daniel Jacobson (@Dan_F_Jacobson) November 19, 2019
This is ridiculous. WH Staff spent countless hours, right up until President Trump Inauguration, preparing memos to facilitate a smooth transition and left notes of encouragement and support for their predecessors. Have to wonder what prompted this outright lie. https://t.co/LG7azNJ72P— Peter Boogaard (@pboogaard) November 19, 2019
Former speechwriter Jon Favreau said if Obama staffers had left spiteful messages, they would have been more creative.
"It's appalling that she thinks our notes would have been that lame," he tweeted.
Cody Keenan, another former Obama speechwriter, joked that he "left an iPhone charger if anybody's seen it, but no, nobody left unimaginative notes written at a sixth-grade level."
"I mean, if they read the 'how to do your job' memos and briefing books we actually left, they’d at least know how to write a coherent speech, vet their appointees, and maybe fewer of them would be indicted or heading to jail," Kennan added.
In the radio interview, Grisham said that when the Trump team leaves the White House – "in six years" – "I fully intend to leave a note in my predecessor's drawer saying 'good luck to you.'"
"I don't care if it's a Dem or a Republican, " she said. "You're serving the country. It's the highest honor in the world. If these people couldn't recognize and stay above that, that was on them."
Grisham initially served as the spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump. Her predecessor, Joana Rosholm, the former press secretary for first lady Michelle Obama, shared the letter she left for Grisham.
"Welcome to the small family of White House Staffers, past and present. The bond we all share transcends politics," Rosholm wrote. "I want you to know that I am always available if you have questions, just as Mrs. Bush's staff was for us. No question is too big or too small."
Reporters who covered the 2017 White House transition also disputed Grisham's claims.
"I was in the West Wing on the evening of January 20, 2017, talking to several incoming Trump officials as they moved into their offices," tweeted ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, along with pictures from the White House that day.
"I saw no offices 'filled with Obama books' and nobody mentioned 'you will fail' notes," he said.
I was in the West Wing on the evening of January 20, 2017, talking to several incoming Trump officials as they moved into their offices. I saw no offices "filled with Obama books" and nobody mentioned "you will fail" notes. Here are photos I took at the WH that night pic.twitter.com/TUZhbO6QbN— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) November 19, 2019
Josh Earnest, who served as Obama's last White House press secretary, left a note for his successor, Sean Spicer, that said, "It is not hard for me to set aside my political views, and genuinely root for you to succeed in this role," according to an image of the letter shared by NBC News.
"I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!" Grisham later said in an email to Politico in which she tried to walk back her claims. She said she only thought of the alleged notes "as a kind of a prank, and something that always happened."
She said she "certainly wasn't implying every office had that issue."
"In fact, I had a lovely note left for me in the East Wing, and I tracked the woman down and thanked her," Grisham said.
She said she was only talking about "our experience in the lower press office," sharply throttling back on her radio interview claim.
One former Trump administration official supported Grisham's claim.
"Stephanie is correct that there were nasty grams left in the press office," tweeted Michael Short, who briefly served as senior assistant press secretary before resigning in July 2017.
Stephanie is correct that there were nasty grams left in the press office. https://t.co/ipbVXvmKgc— Michael C. Short (@michaelcshort) November 20, 2019
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ex-Obama aides slam Stephanie Grisham claim of 'you will fail' notes