Anthony Scaramucci, the Wall Street financier whom President Donald Trump appointed White House communications director on Friday, is considered a polished, smooth-talking antidote to former press secretary Sean Spicer, whose brief tenure with the administration was marked by verbal stumbles and outright gaffes.
But in one of Scaramucci’s first television appearances after taking the White House job, the founder of hedge fund SkyBridge Capital made his own apparent misstep in commenting about new press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—one that immediately drew cries of sexism.
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“I think Sarah does a great job. She’s an incredibly warm person. She’s incredibly authentic,” Scaramucci told CNN’s Jake Tapper. As the interview wound down, Scaramucci referenced his own White House briefing debut on Friday, when he announced Sanders as Spicer’s replacement:
“Sarah, if you’re watching. I love the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday, so I’d like to continue to use the hair and makeup person.”
When he made the comment, it wasn’t clear what Scaramucci meant; whether he was referencing the person who does Sanders’s hair and makeup specifically or the artist who, perhaps, made up them both for their on-camera appearances.
Later, Scaramucci tweeted that he was referring to his own look.
Regardless, some viewers took the remark as Scaramucci equating Sanders’s looks with how well she carries out her high-profile job.
Scaramucci’s emphasis on physical appearance–his own or others’—seems to be in line with the president’s own concern about how his staff looks. President Trump reportedly took issue with the way Spicer dressed, especially the former press secretary’s early penchant for lighter-shade suits. After that critique, Spicer, who resigned Friday after Scaramucci’s appointment, made noticable updates to his wardrobe. Axios also reported in February that Trump prefers women who work for him “to dress like women.” (That vague directive that was immediately meme-ified online with photos of women in spacesuits, military uniforms, and judges’ robes.)
Like Scaramucci, Sanders—only the third woman to be White House press secretary since the job was created in 1929—downplayed the remark on Sunday, telling the Washington Post that Scaramucci was simply complimenting the makeup artist.
“Nothing else should be read into it,” she said.