Scaramucci sets off on-the-record debate

White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, whose obscenity-laden tirade against fellow Trump administration officials during an interview with a New Yorker writer continued to reverberate on Friday, either learned a hard lesson in the basics of dealing with reporters or knew exactly what he was doing.

Regardless, Scaramucci’s phone call to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza on Thursday caused a debate over what was or is off-the-record versus on-the-record and whether Scaramucci knew the difference.

The phone call started because of an inquiry by POLITICO, which reached out to Scaramucci to confirm whether a dinner between Scaramucci, President Donald Trump, former Fox News executive Bill Shine and current Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Kimberly Guilfoyle had taken place at the White House on Wednesday evening. Scaramucci asked who had revealed the information, and was pointed to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, who had tweeted that the information came from an anonymous high-level White House source.

Scaramucci then called Lizza and embarked on the strange tirade where, in extremely colorful language, he maligned his co-workers Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon, detailed his conversations with the president and suggested that Priebus would soon be asked to resign.

Scaramucci initially seemed to imply that the conversation was not meant to be public. "I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won’t happen again,” he tweeted Thursday evening. Hannity, a close friend of Scaramucci’s and his dinner guest the night of the call, said on his program on Thursday that Scaramucci "told me he thought it was off the record.”

But Lizza and the New Yorker say the information was not off-the-record. They say they have a recording of the conversation, but do not plan to release the audio. The New Yorker said in a statement first reported by Axios that at one point in the conversation, "Scaramucci requested that one part be off the record, and we respected that. The rest was on the record. Today [Thursday], Ryan and Scaramucci had another conversation and Scaramucci was clear and agreed that the conversation was on the record.”

By common understanding, government officials and other sources who wish to keep their comments off the record must say so in advance in agreement with the reporter.

In an interview on Fox News on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not suggest that Scaramucci’s conversation was off-the-record.

“Look, I think Anthony put out a statement here just moments ago, and stated that — you know, this is a guy who sometimes uses colorful and in many circles probably not appropriate language,” Sanders said. “And he’s very passionate about the president and the president’s agenda, and I think he may have let that get the best of him in that conversation.”

Asked by reporters on Air Force One about the interview, Scaramucci took on a decidedly more Washingtonian tone. “Better not to comment,” he said.

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