WHITE HOUSE – Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary who never held a briefing for the media during her nine months in the position, is shifting from the West Wing back to the East Wing where she will become first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and spokesperson.
“I am excited to welcome Stephanie back to the team in this new role,”said the first lady in a statement released Tuesday morning. “She has been a mainstay and true leader in the Administration from even before day one, and I know she will excel as Chief of Staff.”
Grisham, who is 43, will succeed, effectively immediately, Lindsay Reynolds who resigned early this week “to spend time with her family,” according to the White House.
“I continue to be honored to serve both the President and First Lady in the Administration,” said Grisham in a statement. “My replacements will be announced in the coming days and I will stay in the West Wing to help with a smooth transition for as long as needed.”
Grisham is expected to be succeeded by Kayleigh McEnany, the top spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
McEnany is a 31-year-old Harvard Law School graduate who was previously the national spokesperson for the national committee of the Republican Party.
“Grisham will be remembered for what she didn’t do — which was hold one single White House briefing,” noted Joe Lockhart, a White House press secretary during the administration of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
“She managed to kill an important institution in our country in less than a year,” Lockhart told VOA.
While Grisham rarely appeared on camera, she was active behind the scenes in the West Wing press office and frequently spoke to White House reporters off camera, including on Air Force One.
She won admiration from the traveling press corps when she got into an altercation with North Korean officials who attempted to block access to U.S. journalists covering Trump inside the Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjom when the president crossed north to greet the reclusive country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
Grisham previously was Melania Trump’s communications director and has a long relationship with the Trump family. She worked as an assistant on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“Loyalty and being able to guard the secrets is the single most important job qualification in Trumpworld,” according to Nina Burleigh, author of “Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women.”
During Grisham’s tenure working in both wings of the White House, she “distinguished herself by never holding a daily briefing — a spectacular snub to fact-based journalism that few standard-issue publicists would have dared to or been able to pull off. In that, she amplified Trump’s contempt for journalism,” Burleigh told VOA.
As White House press secretary, Grisham succeeded two higher-profile figures who became household names — Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders for their on-camera sparring with correspondents in the press briefing room.
The room remained largely unused during Grisham’s tenure until the president himself began briefing reporters directly as the coronavirus pandemic grew.
“I can’t think of a more irrelevant press secretary. Trump is his own press secretary,” University of Texas-Austin Associate Professor of Public Affairs, Joshua Busby, told VOA.
Grisham self-quarantined after attending a March 7 dinner at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where she was exposed to two or more people who later tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The White House announced on March 24 that Grisham had tested negative and would return to work the next day.
The timing of her departure from the West Wing comes with the arrival of the new White House chief of staff, former congressman Mark Meadows, who is said to be interested in restoring regular press briefings.