Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy appeared on the Feb. 12 edition of CNN's "Reliable Sources" mostly to shill for his buddy Donald Trump and to tamp down suggestions that the president doesn't know what he's doing. Cathy Burke's Newsmax article on her boss' appearance sums his words up in its lead paragraph: "President Donald Trump's first weeks in office are showing him to be 'a stable, sensible world leader,' who trusts the American people will judge him on the 'results' of both his foreign and domestic policies."
The big news, however ,was Ruddy throwing Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, under the bus, apparently based on a conversation he had with Trump a couple days earlier:
I think there's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff. I think Reince Priebus -- good guy, well intentioned, but he clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work. He doesn't have a really good system -- hedoesn't know how the communications flow.
Ruddy later told the Washington Post:
It’s my view that Reince is the problem. I think on paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff — and Donald trusted him — but it’s pretty clear the guy is in way over his head. He’s not knowledgeable of how federal agencies work, how the communications operations work. He botched this whole immigration rollout. This should’ve been a win for Donald, not two or three weeks of negative publicity.
That apparently didn't go over well. Ruddy's walkback began quickly, with a tweet declaring: "Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive! CNN today my personal view. Told him I have 'open mind' based on his results." At Newsmax, Ruddy's walkback is bizarrely framed as a scoop in an unbylined article:
Senior White House sources have told Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy that President Trump has full confidence in Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the job he is doing.
"I’m hearing from a number of senior people today that President Trump very much likes the job Reince Priebus is doing and has no intention of replacing him," Ruddy told Newsmax.
Ruddy's comments come after a CNN appearance Sunday on Brian Stelter's "Reliable Sources" when he defended the Trump administration from media attacks, but chided Priebus for White House messaging fumbles during the opening days of the administration.
Ruddy made clear to CNN and other press outlets his views were his own and were not based on any conversation with the president.
The Post's Chris Cillizza questions this: "Those quotes — on the record no less! — come 48 hours after Ruddy had drinks with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. It's sort of hard to imagine Ruddy didn't (a) run Priebus down even more in private and (b) let Trump know he was going to tell people about it."
Cillizza goes on to note that Trump's treatment of his senior staff -- an atmosphere in which his chief of staff is thrown under the bus by a Trump friend on TV -- is highly unusual.
Then again, the elevation of his friend to the presidency has made Ruddy something of a power broker. Another Post article touts the "newfound access" conservative outlets are getting in the Trump White House, with the chief example being Newsmax Washington bureau chief John Gizzi: "press secretary Sean Spicer has picked him out several times from among the jostling mob of journalists seeking to question the administration." The Post didn't note that Gizzi's boss is a friend of the president, which might also account for that newfound access.
Ruddy seems to be playing his cards in a way to ride Trump's coattails to becoming a more mainstream media player. It's clear, however, that Ruddy has no interest in being critical of his friend -- yet.