The Slatest

Obama Officials Say Trump Press Secretary’s Claim They Left Mean Notes Is a Lie

Stephanie Grisham listens at an appearance outside the White House.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham at the White House on Sept. 9. Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham made the bizarre assertion that aides to President Barack Obama left taunting notes in the White House during the transition between administrations.

“We came into the White House, I’ll tell you something,” Grisham said, according to CNN’s Abby Phillip. “Every office was filled with Obama books, and we had notes left behind that said, ‘You will fail,’ ‘You aren’t going to make it.’ ”

The claim was met with skepticism, as the odds that reports of such behavior from a rival party’s administration would be withheld for nearly three years are low.

Those who worked in the White House at the time were quick to mock Grisham’s claim and accuse her of lying.

A former special assistant to the president and senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council:

A former special assistant to the president and a spokesman for the National Security Council:

A former White House attorney:

The former deputy secretary for the Labor Department and White House Cabinet secretary:

A former White House press aide:

A former press secretary:

A former assistant to the president and director of the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House:

A former senior adviser to Obama:

A former national security adviser:

The former director of speechwriting for Obama:

In a statement to NBC News, Grisham later said she had exaggerated.

“I certainly wasn’t implying every office had that issue,” Grisham wrote, according to NBC. “In fact, I had a lovely note left for me in the East Wing, and I tracked the woman down and thanked her. I was talking specifically about our experience in the lower press office—nowhere else. I don’t know why everyone is so sensitive!”

Technically, it would be very difficult to prove that someone, somewhere, did not leave an unpleasant note in the White House. But no one has yet come forward to back up Grisham’s assertion, and several reporters have said that they saw no evidence of letters in the press area:

Closing the loop, the former press secretary to Michelle Obama provided the letter she says she left for the next first lady’s communications director: Stephanie Grisham.

Update, Nov. 19, 2019 at 4:15 p.m.: This post has been updated with additional tweets.