WASHINGTON – Stephanie Grisham is stepping into one of the most high-profile jobs in the White House as President Donald Trump’s new press secretary.
Trump chose Grisham on Tuesday to replace Sarah Sanders, who is stepping down next week to return to her home state of Arkansas. Grisham will be Trump's third press secretary in three years.
So who is she?
She’s an Arizona native and a single mom. She’s a fierce protector of the Trumps, particularly first lady Melania Trump, for whom she has worked for the past 2½ years. She’s one of the few remaining White House staffers who worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and someone who’s not afraid to tangle with the press.
A few facts about the new face in the White House briefing room:
Grisham may be new to the press secretary’s job, but she’s not new to the White House. In fact, she has quite a history with the Trumps.
Grisham joined Trump’s presidential campaign in 2015 and, after he was elected, served on his transition team. She later joined the White House as the deputy to Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer.
In March 2017, Grisham went to work in the East Wing as Melania Trump’s communications director. Last year, she was promoted to deputy chief of staff for communications.
She is known for her loyalty.
“It will be Sarah Huckabee Sanders on steroids,” said Tom Ryan, a lawyer who tangled with Grisham during her days in Arizona politics. “She will be an aggressive defender of everything Trump.”
Before she got involved with the Trumps, Grisham was well known around the Arizona State Capitol and in the state’s political circles.
She worked as the spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and then later for the GOP caucus in the Arizona House.
'A great advocate'
Grisham took a leave of absence from the GOP caucus job to work for Trump's presidential campaign. She helped arrange political stops for Trump around Arizona and the southwest, a role that quickly expanded to include Trump rallies around the country.
Grisham also worked on Mitt Romney’s campaign for president in 2012.
“She's a great advocate for the person she's working for,” Horne said. “She's very friendly, easy to be around, and she's very effective. She has good relationships with reporters. And she is very committed to her work. I think people in Washington notice that in her defenses of the president’s wife. She hit back hard when they’ve made unfair criticisms."
Leaving her mark...and snark
In the first lady’s office, Grisham was one of the key architects of the first lady's anti-bullying campaign and helped her navigate controversies over a jacket with a seemingly flippant remark at the height of the family-separation crisis last year.
The jacket controversy flared up last June when the first lady donned a short trench coat with a striking message scrawled on the back for her unexpected trip to Texas to visit a migrant children's shelter.
“I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” it read.
The inscription seemed a contradictory message for the first lady's mission to Texas, where she hoped to demonstrate how much she cares about the children separated from their parents and housed in shelters there.
Grisham pushed back against the idea that there was anything wrong with the jacket.
"It's a jacket. There was no hidden message,” she said, chiding the media for focusing on the first lady’s wardrobe.
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Grisham also famously threw shade at Trump’s first wife Ivana who, while promoting her new book in a television interview in October 2017, pointed out that she married the president first and added, “I’m first lady.”
In a snarky response, Grisham said Melania Trump planned to use the title of first lady “to help children, not sell books.” She also dismissed Ivana Trump’s statement as having “clearly no substance” and nothing but “attention-seeking and self-serving noise.”
Edge of controversy
Grisham herself has been at the edge of controversy in the White House.
In July 2018, she tweeted about her three-year anniversary working with Trump. The tweet included a photo from a 2015 Trump campaign rally and the Trump campaign slogan, “MAGA.”
That prompted a warning letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which said she was at risk of violating the Hatch Act, the law that prohibits government employees from political work using official time and resources.
A single mom
Grisham is a single mom to two boys, Jake and Kurtis.
Because of her grueling schedule, Grisham reportedly did not see Jake, who was 8 at the time, for 5½ months during the presidential campaign. Kurtis has graduated from high school and is on his own.
In a 2017 interview with a Phoenix television station, Grisham talked about the difficulties of being away from her children during the campaign and the toll of working the long hours that come with a White House job.
“Sometimes, I just break down and cry,” Grisham said of the time away from her sons. But, “I know that in the future, this will be great for them and it will benefit them.”
Contributing: Maria Puente of USA Today and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen of the Arizona Republic
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Defender of everything Trump': Meet Stephanie Grisham, Donald Trump's new press secretary