White House Communications Director

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The White House Director of Communications, also known as Assistant to the President for Communications, is part of the senior staff of the President of the United States, and is responsible for developing and promoting the agenda of the President and leading its media campaign. The director, along with his or her staff, works on speeches such as the inaugural address and the State of the Union Address. The Communications Director, who is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the President, without the need for Senate confirmation, is usually given an office in the West Wing of the White House.

The position of Director of Communications is currently occupied by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.[1]

History[edit]

The White House Office of Communications was established by Herbert G. Klein in 1969 during the Nixon administration.[2] It was separate from the Office of the Press Secretary from 1969 to 1974.[3]

Role and Responsibilities[edit]

Historically, the position of White House Communications Director is given to a senior public relations staff member of the candidate's campaign staff. Often this is either the Deputy Campaign Manager or the Campaign Communications Director. The Communications Director works closely with the White House Press Secretary, who was typically a co-worker in the president's campaign. For instance, during the 1992 Clinton Presidential Campaign, George Stephanopoulos was Deputy Campaign Manager, who became the Communications Director after Clinton's election.

As the President's voice and vision must be clear, the Communications Director ensures that all aspects of communications are covered to ensure that the administration's message has been delivered successfully.[4] A communications strategy must be devised to promote the President's agenda throughout all media outlets. This can include, but certainly is not limited to, the State of the Union address, televised press conferences, statements to the press, and radio addresses. The communications office also works closely with cabinet-level departments and other executive agencies in order to create a coherent strategy through which the President's message can be disseminated.

With the growing importance of the internet and new media in terms of Presidential communication, the Office of Communications is having to branch out, and this has been given an added impetus by the election of Barack Obama who made large use of the internet, and more specifically social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to reach out to his supporters in order to solicit donations and spread his campaign message.

Key staff[edit]

Directors[edit]

Officeholder Term start Term end President
Herb Klein January 20, 1969 July 1, 1973[5] Richard Nixon
Ken Clawson January 30, 1974 November 4, 1974
Gerald Ford
Jerry Warren November 4, 1974[6] August 15, 1975
Margita White August 15, 1975 July 1976
David Gergen July 1976[7] January 20, 1977
Gerald Rafshoon July 1, 1978 August 14, 1979 Jimmy Carter
Frank Ursomarso February 23, 1981[8] June 17, 1981 Ronald Reagan
David Gergen June 17, 1981[9] January 15, 1984
Michael McManus January 15, 1984[6] February 6, 1985
Pat Buchanan February 6, 1985 March 1, 1987
Jack Koehler March 1, 1987 March 13, 1987[10]
Tom Griscom April 2, 1987 July 1, 1988
Mari Maseng July 1, 1988 January 20, 1989
David Demarest January 20, 1989 August 23, 1992 George H. W. Bush
Margaret Tutwiler August 23, 1992[11] January 20, 1993
George Stephanopoulos January 20, 1993 June 7, 1993 Bill Clinton
Mark Gearan June 7, 1993[12] August 14, 1995
Don Baer August 14, 1995 July 31, 1997
Ann Lewis July 31, 1997 March 10, 1999
Loretta Ucelli March 10, 1999 January 20, 2001
Karen Hughes January 20, 2001 October 2, 2001 George W. Bush
Dan Bartlett October 2, 2001[13] January 5, 2005
Nicolle Wallace January 5, 2005 July 24, 2006
Kevin Sullivan July 24, 2006 January 20, 2009
Ellen Moran January 20, 2009 April 21, 2009 Barack Obama
Anita Dunn
Acting
April 21, 2009 November 30, 2009
Dan Pfeiffer November 30, 2009 January 25, 2013
Jennifer Palmieri January 25, 2013 April 1, 2015
Jen Psaki April 1, 2015 January 20, 2017
Sean Spicer January 20, 2017 present Donald Trump

References[edit]