Anthony Scaramucci is already working to smooth over the administration’s rocky relationship with CNN.
In a transcript of comments Scaramucci made Sunday on a hot microphone between appearances on Fox News, CNN, and CBS News talk shows, Scaramucci described his mindset when he took the lectern at his first press briefing on Friday, hours after his appointment was announced and press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.
“In the back of my mind I have to call on CNN and send a message to [CNN President Jeff] Zucker that we are back in business,” Scaramucci said, according to the transcript obtained by BuzzFeed News. He referred to Zucker having “helped me get the job by hitting those guys,” a reference to the network’s decision to force the resignation of three employees over a retracted Russia article that mentioned Scaramucci.
According to the transcript, Scaramucci — who was filming the interviews remotely — joked that Zucker is “not getting a placement fee for getting me the job.”
Scaramucci confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he made the comments and said that some of his colorful remarks were jokes.
After his interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Scaramucci confirmed that he spoke on the phone with Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington bureau chief.
According to the transcript, Scaramucci offered pleasantries about when the two could get together before moving on to business.
“I called on Sara on Friday for a reason. I want to make sure you know that,” Scaramucci said, referring to CNN White House correspondent Sara Murray, according to the transcript. “But then I went on Breitbart after that for a reason,” he added, referring to a Saturday interview on Breitbart’s radio broadcast where he praised the right-wing site.
“I’m trying to deescalate the tension across the entire media spectrum,” Scaramucci told BuzzFeed News in an interview on Sunday night. “Breitbart would be on the right and CNN would be on the left. I intentionally sought out both to send a symbolic message that we are trying to deescalate.”
“The president feels that 97% of [CNN’s] coverage is about him, and 93% of the 97% is decidedly negative. We’re hoping that we can change it,” Scaramucci told BuzzFeed News.
CNN and Feist did not return a request for comment.
Scaramucci’s comments and conversation with CNN offer an early glimpse into his strategy as communications director, which, in a more off-the-record environment, features a similar kind of gregarious schmoozing he showcased while on camera on Friday.
It's clear from the transcript that, much like the president, Scaramucci cares a great deal about CNN — which has been the main target of the president’s claims of “fake news.” Scaramucci’s comments also come amid media speculation about Zucker’s future at the network, rumors that CNN executives believe the White House is stoking.
According to the transcript, Scaramucci told Feist that his interactions with the press will be well thought-out.
Scaramucci said that although some say he’s “some jerkoff salesman,” he went to Harvard Law School and is a strategic thinker. “So when you’re thinking I did this shit by accident, know that I did it on purpose, you understand what I am saying?” Scaramucci said.
Scaramucci also told Feist that he wants to have an “honest conversation” and added a characteristic “I love you, man.” He noted that there a lot of attractive people around him, then joked that he’s probably not allowed to say that on a hot mic.
Between hits on Fox and CNN, before speaking with Feist, Scaramucci bragged about his new position and his ability to handle the briefing room with no talking points or preparation, according to the transcript.
Scaramucci briefly discussed Spicer’s exit, saying that he resigned over the fact that Scaramucci is reporting directly to the president.
“That’s what I was told,” Scaramucci later told BuzzFeed News. “The president wanted him to stay. I was totally OK with him staying.”
While Scaramucci has an ease with the press, per the transcript, he also made clear his frustrations over media coverage, saying that the president only talked about the presidential pardon for “two minutes in the Oval Office” and it was “nonsense” that “everyone” is saying he’s going to pardon himself.
Scaramucci also reiterated a point he made on TV: He vowed to aggressively hunt down and fire leakers in the White House.