A Friday Politico report says that Madeleine Westerhout, the president’s personal assistant, was forced to leave her post after telling journalists that the president wouldn’t appear in photographs with his daughter Tiffany because he said she was overweight.
While Westerhout, 28, was arguably one of the closest people in the White House to the president, but the departure of someone in that position — even suddenly — wouldn’t normally trigger paroxysms of gossip on Capitol Hill.
However, this is the Trump presidency and anything that reinforces the White House in chaos storyline gets reported with breathless abandon.
So, off to the races we went. And, lo and behold, we got to the finish line rather quickly.
Politico’s Daniel Lippman reported Westerhout had a few drinks at an off-the-record event for the media earlier on Aug. 17 in Bedminster, New Jersey, as the president was vacationing at his golf club there.
Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley left the Embassy Suites restaurant where the event was being held for approximately 45 minutes to do an interview with Fox News, according to the account.
That’s when the fun, such as it was, began.
Westerhout allegedly made three separate statements you probably shouldn’t make about your boss. First, she said the president didn’t like taking pictures with Tiffany Trump because she was overweight. Second, she said he couldn’t pick Tiffany out of a crowd. Finally, she said that she had a better relationship with the president than either of his daughters did.
Well, I guess if she was really under that apprehension, that certainly changed Thursday.
Trump confirmed on Friday that Westerhout was fired for comments about his children to the media.
“I guess she said some things. She called me. She was very upset. She was very down,” Trump said, according to The Hill. He called the firing “automatic.”
“She called and I wished her well,” he said.
As for the allegations regarding Tiffany, Trump said they were “absolutely false.”
“She’s going to be calling me when we get to Camp David … It’s absolutely false. She’s a wonderful person and she studies hard,” Trump said.
Trump also chastised the media for being “dishonest” — keep in mind this was an off-the-record conversation, something that shouldn’t have been repeated in the first place — but added, “you don’t say things like she said, which were just a little bit hurtful to some people.”
An administration official was a bit more blunt about the press, however: “This was an off-the-record dinner and the media blatantly violated that agreement,” they said, according to Politico.
There were four reporters present with Westerhout during the dinner and during a ride to a different hotel: Steve Holland with Reuters, Jennifer Jacobs with Bloomberg, Andrew Restuccia with The Wall Street Journal and Phil Rucker with The Washington Post.
Rucker referred comments about the incident to The Post.
“Philip Rucker is one of the best and most scrupulous reporters in the news business,” Steven Ginsberg, national editor at The Post, said in response. “He has always acted with the utmost honor and integrity and has never violated Washington Post standards or policies.”
The other journalists refused to comment.
So, what can we learn from this? Moderation in all things, particularly if you’re around the press.
Second, the media is not your friend, especially when you’re a Trump administration official. Off-the-record never really means that, apparently, at least if you say something like this.
Finally, for someone who can summon a significant amount of venom when crossed, the president seems to have handled this with a fair amount of grace. He’s clearly not looking to ruin Westerhout’s life or career. Quite frankly, she’s done a good enough job of it herself, if this report is true. Given the situation, you might have expected something a lot more vigorous. I guess Trump might be more of a softie than we may have imagined.
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