In defense of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Special to the Washington Post

Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied about baking a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving. The White House press secretary further ruined the national holiday by humiliating the press corps by asking them why they are grateful.

While none of this is true, attacking Sanders personally has become the media's latest and lowest method of attacking President Donald Trump.

"Piegate" started after Sanders shared a picture on Thursday of a chocolate pecan pie with the caption, "I dont cook much these days, but managed this Chocolate Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving at the family farm!"

April Ryan, the American Urban Radio Networks correspondent and a CNN political analyst, tweeted at Sanders the next day: "Show it to us on a table."

She then added, "I am not trying to be funny but folks are already saying #piegate and #fakepie Show it to us on the table with folks eating it and a pic of you cooking it."

Ryan's insinuation that Sanders used a stock photo launched a viral debate involving every nook and cranny of the crust and glazed pecan top of the pie.

Sanders responded to the second tweet with grace: "Don't worry @AprilDRyan because I'm nice I'll bake one for you next week ;-) #RealPie #FakeNews."

The media freaks out every time the White House uses the term "fake news" to mean "liberal biased news," but in this case, a CNN analyst was actually spreading fake news, which is information that has not been sourced or reported and has no basis in fact.

Ryan's fake news was so influential that other liberal media kept the rolling pin going. On Saturday, MSNBC's Joy Reid, said she "cannot verify whether or not Sanders baked that pie."

Did anyone at MSNBC call the White House and ask? Fox News' Todd Stearns did, and Sanders told him, "Of course I made the pie." She added that, "I make it for every holiday family gathering and have for years."

Sanders was also attacked for asking reporters, in a pre-Thanksgiving briefing, to state what they were thankful for before asking their questions. Sanders started by saying she was thankful for, among other things, the people in the room, her faith and family. Reporters almost all responded in kind, which gave the usually antagonistic briefing room a kinder atmosphere.

Sanders is a practicing Christian, who prays before she does the daily briefing, so one would think she would be given the benefit of the doubt in understanding this as a good-will effort to transcend partisanship.

That's not what happened.

Post columnist Dana Milbank called the gesture "infantilizing of the press corps" and wrote he's "profoundly thankful that Trump and so many of his appointees have turned out to be incompetent." Well, that's quite the Thanksgiving spirit.

Piling on, his colleague Kathleen Parker said Sanders' request was "candy-coating her usual condescension with faux fellowship." Parker used the rest of her column to criticize every aspect of Sanders' professional skills and recommended that she be replaced with — naturally — a journalist.

The Thanksgiving nastiness wasn't even the lowest the media sank in its attacks on Sanders.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles Times writer David Horsey began his piece: "Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not look like the kind of woman Donald Trump would choose as his chief spokesperson." He went on to say she "looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids' games."

The backlash to this piece, especially the reference to Sanders' weight, was so swift that the Times deleted all of it from the column and added an apology from the author. This is not standard procedure in newspapers. The as-written text normally stays in the piece, unless factually incorrect. There's no way the Times did this because it cares about Trump supporters. It cares about female readership. And we don't like men judging our weight and appearance at work.

The media hostility toward Sanders really has nothing to do with her but stems from its barely concealed hatred for Trump. So they want a Trump spokesperson to perform badly. But Sanders is effective in the way she does not give an inch in defense of the president, while keeping her cool and appearing unfazed. That means she gives the media few sound bites to nourish liberal cable shows and late-night television. She ducks and dodges when needed, which is part of the job.

Sanders has thick skin and a strong faith. None of these personal attacks appear to get to her, no matter how low and mean. She knows her purpose is to defend and promote the policies of the president and the administration. At some point, the elite pundit class in the media will realize that in attacking Sanders, they are the ones who end up looking bad.

Washington Post

Emily Miller is a journalist and the author of "Emily Gets Her Gun." She was also the deputy press secretary at the State Department in the George W. Bush administration.

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