Transcript: Anthony Scaramucci takes viewer questions

After 11 days in the White House, Anthony Scaramucci takes viewer questions.

ByABC News
August 13, 2017, 1:11 PM


I'm ABC's Rick Klein and we're here in a Facebook live and an live with Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director. Anthony just had his turn with George Stephanopoulos.

George asked his questions and now it's your turn to ask the same questions.

We've already gotten a lot of good questions, but leave yours here in the Facebook comments field and I'll be right here to put them to Anthony over the next couple of minutes.

Our producers will be monitoring the whole thing and adding as we go along.

But let's jump right in.

Anthony, thanks for doing this.


Thanks for having me.

KLEIN: All right.

SCARAMUCCI: Good to see you.

Appreciate it.

KLEIN: The first question comes in from Anna -- from Justin Fry (ph).

"Do you believe Steve Bannon is behind the president's unwillingness to specifically name white supremacy in yesterday's events?

How much influence does the white supremacy movement and Breitbart have over this president?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I don't necessarily agree with that. I think the president is his own person. I think some people looking to defeat him hoped it was rigged. And I think Josh Green's book, they're trying to interpret that the president is Steve Bannon's puppet. I don't believe that. The president is his own person. He has his own individual ideas.

He's also a great media strategist. So there's a lot of things that he's done in the media that people don't like, but they've worked for him. Obviously, he won. The guy is a winner. So I don't believe that.

As it relates to Breitbart or what I call Bannon-Bart, I think some of the stuff that they talk about is very worthwhile. It has to do with the middle class movement, the lower middle class movement, that struggle, the economic desperation that's gone on.

But the other stuff, the other nasty stuff that's on that Web site I think is disgusting.

KLEIN: Does Bannon-Bart, in your term, does that have any influence on the president's thinking?

Is that the concern?

SCARAMUCCI: You know, I would say no. You know, I've talked to the president pretty candidly about that. I would say it has less of an influence than people think.

But the fact that he's setting there inside the White House probably makes people think that it has an influence. And I think that's reason enough to (INAUDIBLE).

KLEIN: And you told George a few minutes ago that you've talked to President Trump in this past week.

Did you talk to him about Steve Bannon?

SCARAMUCCI: No, I think we just had a candid conversation about a lot of different things that went on and (INAUDIBLE) I'm personally accountable for some of the things that happened. Obviously, I said that to George. I'll say that for the rest of my life.

But I also think that there's things that the president's going to need on a going forward basis that's going to essentially help him. And so we had a candid discussion.

KLEIN: Next question in from Bayous Austin (ph).

"My question is what do you think about Trump's handling of the Charlottesville situation?

How would you have the White House respond?"

You are obviously a little bit critical of that a few minutes ago.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, again, I don't really describe it as critical. I have a difference of opinion. I think what makes for a good White House staff is people that can express their opinion to the president.

That doesn't mean the president has to take your opinion, but ultimately, you know, I've run -- ran two reasonably very successful organizations. You've got to get people in the room that have differing opinions than you. Lincoln had a phenomenal line. He was asking for a vote on something, there were nine people against, there was one people for and he said the ayes have it, meaning it was him.

So at the end of the day, I would share my opinion with the president. Since I'm not inside the White House now, I can't do that as intimately.

George was asking me an honest question, I gave you an honest answer.

He needed to be way tougher with the white supremacists (INAUDIBLE) thing. Anybody that has experienced any level of racism, any level of prejudice, knows that this is disgusting. It's un-American and it cannot be tolerated. And I applauded...

KLEIN: You've been inside...

SCARAMUCCI: -- I applaud General McMaster for calling it terrorism, because that's exactly what it is.

KLEIN: But you've been inside the rooms with President Trump and others.

How do you think this went down?

Because it came to this point when he went out there, he knew exactly what he was saying and he ignored questions about white supremacy.

SCARAMUCCI: I think the president has a counterintuitive strategy with the media. And so sometimes he says things that he knows is going to catch the average media elite's hair on fire. And so I think he likes doing that, in some ways, because it's a -- it exposes the, in his opinion, and frankly my opinion, to a large extent, an element of media bias.

So my guess is, is that when he says all sides, he finds the white supremacy stuff reprehensible, but I think he has to hit that a little harder, because if he hits it harder, the moderates and the Independents, Rick, who want to support the president and want to help the president with his legislative agenda, I think they'll find that to be more favorable in this sort of micro Bannon-Bart group of people that, I guess like that sort of nonsense.

KLEIN: You told George that you're like Mr. Wolf from "Pulp Fiction," the guys who fixes things.


KLEIN: Mr. Fix It, cleans things -- cleans up messes.


KLEIN: How do you clean this up?

SCARAMUCCI: -- necessarily fix it. I guess Roger Stone called me a suicide bomber, but I...

KLEIN: Well, but how do you fix this?

How do you fix this?

SCARAMUCCI: (INAUDIBLE) fix what, exactly?

KLEIN: Fix what he said yesterday.

What -- how does he come out today?

You're inside, you tell him you have to say this (INAUDIBLE)?

SCARAMUCCI: You know, he doesn't walk things back. He's not the kind of guy that walks things back. He's 71 years old. He has his own opinion of things.

I think that the way these things get fixed is through actions. My experience with the president, I can tell you definitively, he's not a racist. He's not a sexist. He's a meritocrat. He believes in meritocracy and he likes having (INAUDIBLE) men and women around him and people of all colors and faiths around him.

So he's not a racist, but I think that there's no need to go in that direction when you have this phenomenal legislative agenda that you're about to execute on behalf of the American people. And unfortunately, the way a democracy works, we've got to get 52, 51, you name the level of votes to get these things done. And it will be better for him if he stays on side (ph) like that.

Last point, he's the moral -- he has the moral authority of the presidency. I think Harry Truman said it best, the president is the president for all people, not just the people that voted for him, not his base, but really all Americans. And I think so coming out strongly, I don't see any negative coming out very strongly against white supremacy.


SCARAMUCCI: I don't see a negative.

KLEIN: So your phone call took place before yesterday's tragedy, but Michael Mosk (ph) asks, "What took place during your call to the president?"

You didn't talk about that.

SCARAMUCCI: So, listen, it was a private phone call. George asked me if I had spoken to the president and I had. I have a relationship with the president. I'd like to continue my relationship.

And I think one of the things that I've benefited from in my relationship with him over the years is that we can have a frank, honest discussion, as long as we keep it discrete. So I have to continue to do that.

KLEIN: So discretion actually turns us toward this next topic.

SCARAMUCCI: We're not...

KLEIN: Kitty McAffrey (ph)...

SCARAMUCCI: -- we're not on a taped phone line, you know?

KLEIN: That's good.

SCARAMUCCI: What I left out of my I view with George is (INAUDIBLE) full interviews off the record (INAUDIBLE).


KLEIN: In that case, so Kitty McAffrey (ph) asks, "Did you really believe that a witch-hunt of leakers was going to fix the problem?"

SCARAMUCCI: Well, again, I think about it as a corporate CEO. And I think that by declaring that I was going to fire the leakers and actually starting on that process and starting to dig out some of the really nefarious bad actors, I was hoping that it would set a reset of culture.

And so...

KLEIN: You weren't actually going to fire them, though?

SCARAMUCCI: Not necessarily. I mean in my private meetings with the comms team, I basically said listen, I'll take it down to me and Sara Huckabee if I have to. I had the president's (INAUDIBLE) to do that.

Obviously, I didn't want to do that. I think that there needed to be more integration between the RNC people and the campaign people and (INAUDIBLE) one team.

It seems like people were running around in different directions in there. And so culturally, that thing needed to be reknitted. But I think as a corporate CEO, when you're involved in a restructuring -- and I've done two successful mergers -- you sort of have to lay the template out there.

And so I guess one thing I will say, it's very different being a corporate CEO than being a political operative in Washington.

The minute I said that, whatever knives were out for me prior to saying that, they got longer, Rick, and they got sharper. And so, you know, it's like...

KLEIN: Did you actually talk to the FBI and DOJ about leaking?

SCARAMUCCI: No, and I made that clear. I never talked to them about it. I did have a conversation with Attorney General Sessions, not related to digital fingerprinting or anything like that, but he was putting out a press conference related to leaking.

Him and I did talk about that. We did talk about ways that leakers, who are literally breaking the law -- I'm not talking about gossip leaking...

KLEIN: Right.

SCARAMUCCI: -- coming from the West Wing, but I'm talking about, OK, this is a breach of our secrecy and it's a national security issue, which is actually a felonious act. We were talking about ways that you can find that.

So here's the problem. I was having, in my mind, and this is where I'm at fault, and so I'm fully accountable for it. I was having an off the record conversation with somebody. If you look at the language and the syntax and the way I was expressing myself, any honest journalist with some level of integrity that wanted to build a relationship with me would have left all of those comments off the record.

I think it was a deceitful thing. I'm very honest about that. I think the American people find it deceitful. There's a group of people in the media who will say, well, you're a dummy, you should have known that he was taping you and you should have said off the record four times before the conversation started.

All of that is true. But -- and don't take too much offense to this, but you should be aware of it, one of the reasons why the American people dislike the media so much is that they do this sort of nonsense (INAUDIBLE) to other people.

KLEIN: The question just in...

SCARAMUCCI: So we can debate it. I'm accountable for it. I lost my job over it. And it's (INAUDIBLE).

KLEIN: Kevin Sarra (ph) asks, "I wish you could have fired the leaker."

But it does bring us to that question, were you essentially a leaker when you...


KLEIN: -- talked to Ryan Lizza?

SCARAMUCCI: A couple of leakers (INAUDIBLE). Absolutely not. Everything that I said on that phone call was something that I had expressed directly to those people. Absolutely not.

So you can't describe me as a leaker if I'm telling somebody right to their face. I think I coined the term front stabbing. I went right to the people's faces and told them what I thought they were doing wrong.

KLEIN: Reince Priebus, you told him directly that he was a paranoid schizophrenic?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I did tell him that directly and I also -- you know, he also -- he knows that. He knows I feel that way.

KLEIN: You touched on this a little bit, but the question from Hal Pubrick (ph), "Is there anything different you could do in your short and honorable time at the White House, what would that be?"

And leave aside the Lizza interview, because I think (INAUDIBLE).

SCARAMUCCI: You know, I mean, there were two approaches I could have taken. I could have taken more of a political operative's approach and I could have laid very low in the (INAUDIBLE) and built out the team. In hindsight, I probably would have had more longevity.

But if I'm really going to...

KLEIN: More than 11 days?

SCARAMUCCI: More than 11 days.


SCARAMUCCI: It -- but if I'm being realistic, there were two or three people that wanted me to have the job and there were probably 200 people that didn't want me to have the job. And so if you look at the math of that, then you understand the internecine warfare of Washington, I was sure -- I was likely to be a short-termer no matter what.

KLEIN: You became really famous really fast in all of this.

What's different from the private person than the public persona that's now known about yourself?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, look, when you say I've become really famous, I don't know, I guess I don't really feel, quote, unquote, "really famous."


KLEIN: They parodied you on "SNL." I mean there's...

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. And I thought that was funny, I mean, although Bill Hader could do a better job. He needs more hairspray, a tighter tie. You know, Mario Cantone, a fellow Italian, he probably understands the struggle better.

(LAUGHTER) SCARAMUCCI: You know, but I was just saying to my cousin, who came in from (INAUDIBLE), my cousin has been putting auto glass in, is an auto glass installer for 31 years. He's got his own business. He's incredibly successful without a college education.

The people that I want to have like me are those people, OK?

If the media elites don't like me or somebody on the left doesn't like me or there's a Republican establishment person that doesn't like my operating style, I'm sort of very, very comfortable with that. I like being myself and I like expressing myself in an honest declarative way. And I'll take whatever the positives are and the negatives (INAUDIBLE).

KLEIN: So one last thing to button up on the tragedy yesterday, do you believe that -- Dana Blackburn (ph) is asking, "Should Donald Trump attend the memorial service for the young woman who was killed and at least send flowers, do something that demonstrates him to be in support of her?"

SCARAMUCCI: No. Listen, I mean this is interesting about the president. You know, I'll tell you a little bit of insight (INAUDIBLE). When I got to the White House, I was looking at the photography on the walls. If you walk into the West Wing...

KLEIN: Yes. They always put these beautiful pictures up of the president, the vice president and some of the ceremonies that they've attended. And what I remarked to the White House photographer, was there weren't enough private, there weren't enough intimate moments of the American president. There weren't enough expressions of Donald J. Trump as I know him, as a family person, dedicated to his friends. He's an incredibly hard worker.

I thought the photography, if you will, was a little too staid (ph).

The woman said to me, well, that was sort of directionally what people were asking her to do, but she had worked in other administrations and she'd made that photography a little bit more homey.

And so I said, yes, let's go with more homey.

So the reason I'm bringing this up (INAUDIBLE) to that sympathy in the memorial service, that is the president. The president is a hard feeling, loving guy. I'm sure he is distressed at the death that took place yesterday, as he is distressed about all the servicemen that have died to represent our country. and listen, he goes over to Walter Reed a lot to visit with our injured veterans. And so that's the sort of guy that I know and that's the sort of guy that people here in New York know.

SCARAMUCCI: This is a slightly different (INAUDIBLE), this is not a...

KLEIN: Yes, well...


KLEIN: -- well, again, I don't know what his schedule looks like.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. If you're asking me if I was his comms director, would it have recommended something like that?

Absolutely. But I don't know what his schedule is like and I don't know where his time (INAUDIBLE) or elsewhere.

KLEIN: A new question from Yvonne Smith (ph). "What is your opinion on the alt-right and its role in this White House?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, like I said, I mean there are elements of the alt-right -- I mean people are not going to like me saying this, but there are elements of the alt-right that I think have actually been quite beneficial. Steve Bannon is a great speechwriter. I can hear a lot of Steve Bannon's words in some of the speeches.

But the overall overwhelming sentiment of this nonsense of white nationalism, white supremacy, all of this sort of nonsense, it's not really represent of America. It's not really representative of the American experiment or the ideals.

It could be an America of yesteryear, but if you look at the constitutional principles that were laid out, we started the country with an original sin, an original (INAUDIBLE) of slavery. Women didn't have the right to vote. This has been one of the most forward-thinking, socially progressive societies in the world and it's a beacon of hope for the rest of mankind.

And so that nonsense that's representative of the alt-right I don't like at all.

KLEIN: Is Steve Bannon a white nationalist, a white supremacist, in your view?

SCARAMUCCI: You know, I don't know. I mean I've never sat down with Steve Bannon and said, hey, are you a white nationalist or a white supremacist?

But I think the toleration of it by Steve Bannon is inexcusable.

KLEIN: So you mentioned, in your interview with George, the need for the president to get back to the agenda. And a question on that from TTYankee007 (ph). "If you could give Mitch McConnell one piece of advice on how to communicate with potus, what would it be?"

SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen...



SCARAMUCCI: -- I sort of feel -- and, again, I could be wrong and maybe Senator McConnell will be mad at me for saying it this way, but there seems to have been a huge barrier to entry that was created by the political class where people like a Donald Trump, a Mark Zuckerberg, a Jeff Bezos, big CEOs that are very successful with different political ideologies, there's a huge moat, a huge barrier to entry of those people to enter Washington.

As an example, I had to sell my company...


SCARAMUCCI: -- and liquidate my private assets that I built up over the 29 years of my career in order to serve as a public servant. That's a painful process and obviously people can, you know, chide me for doing that because it only lasted 11 days.

But I love the country. So I was willing to do that. You can like or dislike the president but the president's (INAUDIBLE) billions of dollars of opportunity cost on the table answering public servants.

But what happens here now is that the political class -- and I don’t believe in conspiracy -- but I do believe that there's collective fall on the political class saying, whoa, we don’t want corporate CEOs and corporate billionaires and people that are not on the lobbyists' gravy train answering our system. We don’t like it. It's not good for us.

It could knock us out of our jobs. There were communications directors inside these thousands class that were railing on the A-1 right after my press conference.

Why were they doing that?

Well, they're doing that because, A, God forbid I'm successful at that with no Washington establishment communications directorship experience that would expose (INAUDIBLE). And so I think what's going on in our society right now is that the political class, some of them on the Right, some of them on the Left are rejecting the president.


KLEIN: -- Mitch McConnell is rejecting the president?


SCARAMUCCI: Please, I'm not -- I'm not -- (INAUDIBLE) Senator McConnell may take my words and not hear them the way I'm saying them. I don’t think Senator McConnell's rejecting the president. But I do think that there is pressure in various constituencies to reject the president.

I think -- I've known the senator for a long time. I've supported him. You'll find checks with my signature on them into his campaign donations. I have a lot of respect for the senator.

But I think what we have to do is put our swords down in terms of fighting with each other and subordinate ourselves to the agenda. (INAUDIBLE) the president for a second. Let's look at the agenda, to me the agenda has huge value for the American (INAUDIBLE). There's a tax release component; there's an infrastructure component. We have to reform and repair the current health care system. We have to work on -- the president's doing a masterful job of this. He's bringing jobs back (INAUDIBLE) many other deals.

We have to work on that agenda for lower, middle class families and middle class families. We do that, whether you're on the Left or the Right, Rick, that'll be very, very successful.

And I've often said --


KLEIN: Moving to the center for the president?

SCARAMUCCI: -- I think he has to do that. I said that. I said that the first --


SCARAMUCCI: -- he's got to reach out to the moderates and the independents that actually genuinely like him. But when you're not condemning white supremacy, then you have a general reluctancy to offer their support. If he did that communication, his approval ratings go from wherever they are now, 45 percent or tell me the number, they'll go through 50s. He's a very popular figure. He's a very good communicator. And my guess is that we have to connect those dots.

And I said that. My heartbreak is whatever my shortcomings are and my failings, I wasn't able to achieve that goal. OK?

KLEIN: Wrap up here. There's been a lot of questions talking about your future and we know you're back in the business world, back with that. Roseanne Kadoo (ph) asks what are your future plans to (INAUDIBLE) live down the days served in the White House and the events which followed?

Are you going to write a book?



SCARAMUCCI: Look, I don't know. I -- could I write a book? I could possibly write a book. It'll be an uplifting book. It'll be a positive book that helps people not going to be a tell-all tale or something like that.

I've had a lot of ups and downs with my career. (INAUDIBLE) live down this thing. I -- (INAUDIBLE) live down (INAUDIBLE). Listen, I got through the financial crisis. I've been fired -- I was fired from Goldman Sachs, rehired; I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career.

Entrepreneurs have to take on some level of risk to achieve success and with that risk there's incumbent volatility. And still I'm comfortable with the volatility of the situation. But I don’t ever want to do is change myself or my personal identity for the sake of politics (INAUDIBLE). I want to be a plainspoken person. I made a mistake on that -- on that phone call. I owned it. I've accepted the consequences and I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life, a lot of optimism, a lot of positive can-doism.

KLEIN: Any chance you'd appear on "Saturday Night Live"? You mentioned Bill Hader (INAUDIBLE).



SCARAMUCCI: -- my sunglasses for that.

KLEIN: They don't allow that. That's bringing it. And "Dancing with the Stars," I know you said you weren't going to -- you weren't really a dancer. But we saw one of your books. You actually took dancing lessons at one point.

SCARAMUCCI: I have taken dancing lessons. Any Italian kid that grew up on Long Island in the 1980s with "Saturday Night Fever" took dancing lessons. I went to a place called Dance Finesse.


SCARAMUCCI: I don’t think I'm a great dancer, though. I stumble (INAUDIBLE) level of self-awareness. But we'll see. Who knows.

KLEIN: Bill and Harding asks one last question here and (INAUDIBLE) before the statement, I hope you run for president. I hope you run for president.

SCARAMUCCI: Hope I run for president?


SCARAMUCCI: Wow, wow. Well, that's a very flattering thing to say. But I will tell you this, it's a tough job and what we should do, I think all of us, is get behind the president. Let's see if we can help him because I think that's a (INAUDIBLE). That's a flattering thing to say. Thank you.

KLEIN: All right. Thank you.




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