Anita Dunn

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Anita Dunn
Anita Dunn.jpg
White House Communications Director
In office
April 21, 2009 – November 30, 2009
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Ellen Moran
Succeeded by Daniel Pfeiffer
Personal details
Born (1958-01-08) January 8, 1958 (age 58)
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Robert Bauer
Children Stephen
Alma mater University of Maryland, College Park

Anita Dunn is an American political strategist who served as White House Communications Director from April through November 2009. She is a senior partner at SKDKnickerbocker, a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C., and has recently become a contributor for NBC News / MSNBC / CNBC.[citation needed]

Life and career[edit]

Dunn was raised in Bethesda, Maryland, the daughter of Albert E. Babbitt and Carol Hutto Babbitt. Her father's brother was the modernist composer, Milton Babbitt. She began her career in the Carter White House,[1] first as an intern for White House Communications Director Gerald Rafshoon and then worked for chief of staff Hamilton Jordan. She worked on the campaign of Senator John Glenn (D-OH) in 1984,[1] and on Capitol Hill before joining the firm founded by Bob Squier and William Knapp in 1993. She has been the adviser to Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ),[2] including serving as the chief strategist for his presidential campaign, Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). In 2004, Anita produced the media for Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).[3] She was hired by then-Senator Barack Obama in 2006 to direct communications and strategy for his political action committee, The Hopefund. This move signaled to many that Obama was planning to run for the presidency. While advising Hopefund and Obama in 2006, she was instrumental in the preparations for the launch of Obama for America, and brought many key staffers to the Obama campaign with whom she had worked in Bayh's and Daschle's offices.

Obama campaign[edit]

In April 2008, it was announced that Dunn, who had joined the Obama campaign in February, would be the director of communications, policy and research operations for Obama for America, where she held the title Senior Adviser and was one of the major decision makers of the Obama campaign. She was featured as one of four top advisers (along with David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Robert Gibbs) in a 60 Minutes interview held after then President-elect Obama's November 4, 2008 victory speech at Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois. She was described, in the 60 Minutes interview, as, "a relative newcomer who handled communications, research and policy."[4] During the presidential transition of 2008-09, Dunn trained White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.[citation needed]

White House Communications Director[edit]

Dunn served as interim White House Communications Director. She took the lead in the Obama administration's criticism of the Fox News Channel.[5] On Sunday, October 11, 2009, she appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources and was asked to clarify a statement she made to Time magazine regarding Fox News, "it's opinion journalism masquerading as news."[6] She responded by saying, "if you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN. The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party."[7] She added, "And it's not ideological. Obviously, there are many commentators who have conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. But I think what is fair to say about FOX and certainly the way we view it is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party."[8]

Following her statements, Fox News host Glenn Beck played on his show a portion of a speech Dunn gave at a high school graduation, during which she referenced Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa as two of her "favorite political philosophers."[9] Beck stated that the speech revealed Dunn as a Maoist, while Dunn stated that her reference was meant to be ironic, and was a quote borrowed from Republican strategist Lee Atwater.[10]

Many have argued that Dunn played a crucial role in the failure of the Obama administration to put together an effective communications strategy arguing against Obamacare detractors and that left the administration in a much weaker position during the final policy making period.


Dunn left her interim post at the end of November 2009 and was replaced by her deputy Dan Pfeiffer.[11]

After leaving the White House, Dunn rejoined SKDK. She has maintained strong connections with the administration and White House records show that she has visited there over 100 times since 2009. The firm added many Obama administration insiders. Criticism has been raised about some of the clients represented by the firm. In particular, SKDKnickerbocker corporate clients include such controversial companies as the for-profit Kaplan University and TransCanada, the developer of the Keystone XL pipeline.[12] The progressive social change organization CredoAction has mounted a petition calling on Ms. Dunn to stop working on behalf of TransCanada calling it a "betrayal of the commitments that so many of us worked so hard for, and that Dunn herself played a huge role in shaping." [13]

2012 Obama campaign[edit]

During the 2012 Obama campaign, Dunn helped Obama prepare for the debates.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Dunn is married to Robert Bauer, former partner at Perkins Coie and current personal counsel to President Obama and the White House Counsel.[15] Bauer has also been the general counsel of Obama for America since January 2007.[16][17] In 2008, Newsweek named Dunn and Bauer the new "power couple" in Washington, D.C.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Horowitz, Jason (October 14, 2009), "Profile of Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director", The Washington Post, retrieved April 25, 2010 
  2. ^ Cook, Dave (October 22, 2009). "Who is Anita Dunn?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved July 17, 2010. 
  3. ^ Squier Knapp Dunn bio. Company Web site. Retrieved March 9, 2010.
  4. ^ "Obama's Inner Circle Shares Inside Story". CBS.
  5. ^ Horowitz, Jason. "Newly Out In Front for White House: An Ol' Pro: Interim Media Strategist Leads Salvo Against Fox", The Washington Post, October 14, 2009; accessed October 16, 2009
  6. ^ "Calling 'Em Out: The White House Takes on the Press"
  7. ^ "White House Escalates War of Words With Fox News". Fox News. October 12, 2009. Archived from the original on October 17, 2009. Retrieved October 20, 2009. 
  8. ^ "CNN Reliable Sources". CNN. October 11, 2009. Archived from the original on October 16, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009. 
  9. ^ More complete quote from Dunn: "The third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa — not often coupled with each other, but the two people I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point which is: you're going to make choices; you're going to challenge; you're going to say why not; you're going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before. But here's the deal: These are your choices, they are no one else's. In 1947, when Mao Zedong was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over. Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Chinese held the cities, they had the army, they had the air force, they had everything on their side. And people said, 'How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this, against all of the odds against you?' And Mao Zedong said, you know, 'You fight your war, and I'll fight mine.' And think about that for a second. You don't have to accept the definition of how to do things and you don't have to follow other peoples choices and paths. Ok? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war, you lay out your own path, you figure out what's right for you. You don't let external definition define how good you are internally, you fight your war, you let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path".
  10. ^ Malveaux, Suzanne; Hornick, Ed (October 16, 2009). "Obama aide fires back at Beck over Mao remarks". CNN. Archived from the original on October 19, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  11. ^ Cillizza, Chris (November 10, 2009). "Dunn leaving White House, Pfeiffer takes over". Washington Post. Retrieved November 10, 2009. 
  12. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (October 19, 2012). "Anita Dunn, Both Insider and Outsider in Obama Camp". The New York Times. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (October 19, 2012). "Anita Dunn, Both Insider and Outsider in Obama camp". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "After Months of Denials, Greg Craig Out As White House Counsel". Archived from the original on November 15, 2009. Retrieved November 13, 2009.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. ^ "Anita Dunn". Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Bob Bauer". Washington Post Company. Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  18. ^ "The D.C. Powers - Under Obama, there will be a new elite in Washington. Some of its members:", Newsweek, December 20, 2008 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ellen Moran
White House Communications Director
Succeeded by
Daniel Pfeiffer