After special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed she had lied about the reaction to FBI Director James Comey’s firing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders went on a Friday-morning media blitz attempting to reestablish her credibility. It resulted in her telling more lies.
“Look, I’ve acknowledged the word ‘countless’ was a slip of the tongue, but it’s no secret that a number of FBI agents, both current and former, agreed with the president’s decision,” said Sanders when asked what she meant by CBS News. Sanders then said that Mueller had misinterpreted her words in the report, adding, “What I said was that it was the in the heat of the moment. I said it was in the heat of the moment, meaning it wasn’t a scripted thing, it was something that I said, which is why that one word has become a big deal.”
Sanders’s issues stem from comments she made as a deputy press secretary in May 2017 following the firing of Comey about feedback she had received from FBI agents celebrating the decision.
“Well, I can speak from my own personal experiences,” said Sanders. “I’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president’s decision.”
In the redacted version of the Mueller report released Thursday, it read that “Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.”
Sanders attempted to downplay her comments in a series of interviews Friday morning, using most of her time to continue slamming Comey but offering a tenuous representation of her comments.
Sanders’s “countless” comment was made on May 10, when a reporter questioned her assertion that "the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director," quoting an FBI special agent who said "the vast majority of the bureau is in favor of Director Comey.” Sanders said "Look, we've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.”
On the following day, Sanders repeated this assertion — which she later acknowledged to Mueller’s office was baseless — even when given the opportunity to walk it back.
"I've heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the president's decision,” said Sanders. “And I think that we may have to agree to disagree. I'm sure that there are some people that are disappointed, but I certainly heard from a large number of individuals — and that's just myself — and I don't even know that many people in the FBI."
"You said now today, and I think you said again yesterday, that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials employees since this happened," asked Michael Shear of the New York Times.
“Correct,” replied Sanders. “Between email, text messages, absolutely.”
"I mean, really?" replied Shear, asking for a number. "50? 60? 70?"
"Look, we're not going to get into a numbers game," Sanders said. "I have heard from a large number of individuals who work at the FBI who said they're very happy with the president's decision."
When presented with that clip on ABC News, Sanders continued to focus on the word “countless,” repeating that her comments were in the heat of the moment.
Sanders has previously misled the press during her tenure, which started in July 2017 after Sean Spicer stepped down from the position. Spicer was also criticized for his failure to deliver accurate information.
Comedian Michelle Wolf mocked Sanders’s difficulties with the truth during last year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
"I actually really like Sarah,” said Wolf. “I think she’s very resourceful. Like she burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
Wolf faced criticism for her jokes, which addressed Sanders’s appearance, as well her performance. The White House Correspondents’ Association opted to defend Sanders and denounce Wolf, writing that Wolf’s performance was “not in the spirit” of the group’s mission. Wolf shrugged off the complaints, tweeting, “Why are you guys making this about Sarah’s looks? I said she burns facts and uses the ash to create a *perfect* smoky eye. I complimented her eye makeup and her ingenuity of materials.”
Sanders has essentially stopped holding briefs, with only two so far in 2019.
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