WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci, in his first interview since his fleeting tenure as President Donald Trump’s communications director, said that his former boss should have been “much harsher with regards to white supremacy,” when speaking about this weekend’s Charlottesville clashes.
Scaramucci told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that he would have recommended Trump take a different approach. The president has been criticized for not specifically calling out the white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups at Saturday’s rally. One person was killed and others injured when a driver plowed into a group of counter protesters.
Trump, Scaramucci said, “likes doing the opposite of what the media thinks he should do.”
Scaramucci also hinted that the days are numbered for Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon. Scaramucci decried what he called the “Bannon-Bart” influence at the White House, labelling it “nonsense.” It was a reference to Bannon’s former job running Brietbart.com, the right-wing site that has also been associated with the alt-right.
Trump “has got to go more to the mainstream,” Scaramucci said. He said that he thinks “the president knows what he is going to do with Steve Bannon,” adding that Trump “has an idea of who the leakers are.”
Scaramucci was fired after just 11 days on the job. The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza published an expletive-filled interview with Scaramucci, in which he bashed then-chief of staff Reince Priebus and used a sexually-vulgar term to describe Bannon.
Stephanopoulos played portions of the conversation Scaramucci had with Lizza, as Scaramucci listened.
But Scaramucci steered clear from using over-the-top statements, and instead made a point of having a calm conversation with the ABC News host.
He said that he thought that the phone call was off the record, and called it a “very deceitful thing” for Lizza to publish his quotes.
But he acknowledged that he “made an unforced error,” and said that he was a target from the start.
“There were probably one or two people who wanted me in that job,” including Trump, Scaramucci said. “There were probably 200 people that didn’t want me in that job.”
He also said that how he sounds on the audio of the conversation is much different than how he comes across in print — calmer in conversation than the inflammatory words would suggest.
Despite his departure from the White House, Scaramucci said that he remains loyal and supportive of the president, and talked to him in the past week.
He said that some of the turbulence of Trump’s first six months is because “the president is not a representative of political establishment class, and for whatever reason people want to eject him.”
He said that Trump had created an “opening” for corporate CEOs to “enter the system,” and mentioned Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and The Walt Disney Co.’s Bob Iger as corporate chieftains who have expressed an interest in politics.
He said that one of his faults in taking the job was that “I was running too hard like a corporate CEO than a political operative.”
“I went in there with my heart and soul,” he said. “I am a straight talking person.”
He also compared himself to a pop culture figure — Winston Wolf, the clean up guy in “Pulp Fiction.”
Update: Appearing on a Facebook Live conversation with ABC News’ Rick Klein, Scaramucci talked further about Bannon and whether he should have a role at the White House.
Asked whether Bannon and the alt-right we having an influence on Trump, Scaramucci said that “I think the president is his own person.” He said that Bannon’s influence “is not as great as you would think.”
But he said that “the fact that [Bannon] is sitting there in the White House makes people think he has influence.” He did say that some of the topics that Bannon and Brietbart.com have brought up is “very worthwhile,” like “economic desperation,” but “the other nasty stuff that is on that website I think is disgusting.”
He said that he was not being critical of Trump in saying that he would have recommended that the president call out white supremacy, but “I think he needs to hit it a little harder.”
Scaramucci lasted just 11 days, but he said that he probably “was likely to be a short-termer no matter what,” given the culture of Washington.
He said that he liked Bill Haber’s recent impression of him, although he needed “more hairspray and a tighter tie,” and suggested that Mario Cantone had a better understanding of what it means to be Italian American.
Scaramucci called himself a “front stabber,” in that he is willing to tell people unpleasant things to their face. Asked whether he told Priebus that he thought he was a “paranoid schizophrenic,” as he told Lizza, Scaramucci said, “I did tell him that…He knows I feel that way.”
He left open the possibility of appearing on “Saturday Night Live” or “Dancing with the Stars,” although he said, “I don’t think I am a very good dancer.”