Now a Trump loyalist, new White House communications chief once called him a 'hack politician'
Anthony Scaramucci is a major Republican donor with close ties to the Trump family
He once called U.S. President Donald Trump "un-American" and "a hack politician."
On Friday, however, after news broke that Trump had elevated him to White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci took a decidedly different tack on his new boss.
Known as "Mooch" among personal friends, Scaramucci told a packed White House press briefing room that the media just doesn't understand how much Americans love the president. Besides, he's personally seen Trump "throw a dead spiral through a tire" and "shoot free throws" at Madison Square Garden.
"Swish," he added.
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The Harvard-educated former Goldman Sachs investment banker is also ready "to do a lot of winning" in his new role, he said, without explaining exactly what that would mean.
His first encounter with the press in his new position ended with Scaramucci blowing a kiss and waving to reporters as he exited the room.
Despite the platitudes and cavalier comportment, Scaramucci is stepping into an administration under siege. His appointment comes amid turmoil within Trump's legal and media teams over a widening investigation into possible ties between the campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
A fervent Trump loyalist
Multiple U.S.-based outlets reported that the outgoing press secretary, Sean Spicer, and Trump's chief-of-staff, Reince Priebus, were vehemently opposed to Scaramucci taking the top spot in the White House communications shop. Spicer reportedly resigned abruptly Friday after issuing the president an ultimatum: him or Scaramucci. Trump wouldn't budge.
Spicer had been serving as both communications chief and press secretary following the departure of the administration's original communications director Michael Dubke in May. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who filled the press secretary role as Spicer's responsibilities mounted, permanently took over the post on Friday.
Part of Spicer's resistance is reportedly due to Scaramucci's lack of bona fide communications credentials and his personal links to the Trump family.
In addition to being a major Republican donor and fundraiser, Scaramucci is a social acquaintance of Donald Trump Jr. and was a frequent presence at Trump Tower during the transition.
Most critically, though, the Long Island native has been a loyal Trump defender on U.S. cable news programs, the medium the president seems to care about above all others.
Scaramucci has made a point of pushing Trump's rhetoric, even when it's demonstrably false. This includes the often repeated and widely debunked claim that three million to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
He didn't back down from a question on that matter during Friday's news briefing, saying that if the president said it then there must be "some level" of truth in it.
Tricky history with Trump
Despite a dearth of any official training for his new role, Scaramucci is no stranger to the media. His cool swagger was on full display Friday as he continually pivoted back to the country's supposed adoration for Trump.
In addition to his previous cable news appearances, he once hosted a business show on Fox. It was on that program in 2015 that Scaramucci said Trump was a "bully."
"You are an inherited-money dude from Queens County. Bring it," he told his viewers, referring to Trump.
He walked it all back Friday, telling journalists that he regretted the comments and made them while he was "supporting another candidate."
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Indeed, in the years preceding his merger with the Trump campaign, Scaramucci voiced support for Hillary Clinton. He also fundraised for Democrats during the 2008 election season, including Clinton and Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, according to a Buzzfeed news report.
Access to the coffers of a former hedge fund manager and serial entrepreneur is a coveted commodity in the Beltway. But sometime into former president Barack Obama's first term, Scaramucci abandoned the Democratic machine.
At a town hall in 2010, Scaramucci voiced the concerns of the wealthy hedge fund manager community. He told Obama that he and his peers "have felt like a pinata. Maybe you don't feel like you're whacking us with a stick, but we certainly feel like we've been whacked with a stick."
Friction with the media
As for his long, complex history of business dealings, Scaramucci said he's made sure he has no conflicts of interest and that he worked with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics "to take care of all of this."
But front and centre Friday were questions on whether he intends to maintain the fractious relationship with the press cultivated by Spicer and Huckabee Sanders.
Between repeatedly professing his "love" for Trump, Scaramucci said he's a pragmatic thinker who will work to develop a more effective communication style than his predecessor.
He's had trouble with the press before. Earlier this year, a CNN investigation that was later retracted linked him to a $10-billion Russian investment fund. The report said those ties were under investigation by the Senate intelligence committee. Three senior CNN journalists resigned in the wake of the story's retraction and the network apologized to Scaramucci.
With files from Reuters