“I like to curse a lot, did you guys know that?” Anthony Scaramucci asked at an event presented by College Republicans on Thursday evening, attended by almost 300 students who filled the large lecture hall in Kent to hear from the man who worked as White House communications director for 11 days.
Scaramucci referred to Steve Bannon as “Adolf Bannon” while responding to a student’s question about the former White House strategist, who has agreed to come to the University’s business school for a debate at an unannounced date.
In a Twitter message to a Maroon reporter, Scaramucci advocated letting Bannon speak on campus. "It is a wonderful University and you should hear everyone's voices," he wrote. "My bet is you will find him to be a smooth operator."
Scaramucci spoke to students about his brief time in the White House and his thoughts on the state of American politics in D.C. He told students he would answer any question thrown at him, so topics ranged from whether he thinks American political parties are balkanizing to his outlook on cryptocurrency.
The talk topped off a busy week for the political scene on campus, which included a visit by Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, for the fifth anniversary of the Institute of Politics (IOP).
The IOP announced that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is also coming to campus in a few weeks, and organizing has continued against the Bannon debate.
Matthew Jaffe, director of communications at the IOP, confirmed to The Maroon that Scaramucci also recorded a podcast with David Axelrod thanks to the College Republicans’ invite.
The College Republicans were granted funding this week from Student Government for their delegation going to the Conservative Political Action Conference later this month, according the minutes of this week’s Student Government Finance Committee meeting.
Third-year Michael Sitver, communications director of College Republicans, reached out to Scaramucci in November by e-mail, not expecting a response. “To my surprise,” Sitver told The Maroon, “he responded that he’d be happy to meet with us, and we worked out the details from there.”
Sitver said that the College Republicans were specifically interested in Scaramucci because he is “a prominent former member of the administration who made national news over the summer, and he has a lot of fascinating insights to share on what’s going on in the West Wing.”
Sitver, who introduced Scaramucci, confirmed to The Maroon that at the event itself, the room was at capacity and students had to be turned away.
Scaramucci began his talk by praising the event’s civility, compared to other universities where he has been criticized for affiliating with Donald Trump.
Referencing a talk he gave earlier this week at Columbia University, Scaramucci expressed the hope that “if you disagree with me, boo me, all that other stuff—that’s great. Just give me a chance to say what I have to say. Don’t throw anything at me—I like this suit and tie,” which elicited laughter and applause from the audience.
Scaramucci claimed that his generation and others “failed the country” by plunging the it into debt, overspending and overpromising, and starting wars all over the world.
Mentioning that “Steve Bannon and I used to be friends, [but] not anymore,” he added that Bannon holds the view that the “business model” of today’s political scene is a “swamp,” and that politicians do not care about the people.
Scaramucci said that the current political establishment is self-serving when it’s supposed to serve the people. “We have to take that back from them; it’s going to be a very big struggle, because they don’t want to leave,” he said. “They like their little feathered nests, so they’ll do anything to anyone that challenges them.”
While discussing vacated White House positions, Scaramucci addressed Staff Secretary Robert Porter’s recent resignation due to abuse allegations. Scaramucci argued that Chief of Staff John Kelly knew about the situation and advised General Kelly to publicly say so.
“If he didn’t know, then he’s got to get to a podium and say that, because the next two weeks are going to be on whether he knew or he didn’t know, and that’s not good leadership,” he said.
While discussing his short stint in the White House, Scaramucci remembered that after his first press briefing as communications director, Trump praised his performance, but Scaramucci was not pleased.
“I was going to be dead…because I don’t talk like [the media], I don’t think like these people, I’m not part of their culture, I cannot be bought,” Scaramucci recalled thinking at the time. He then segued into discussing how “we’ve got to fix the country,” to “focus on what is right and wrong, as opposed to what is left or right.”
Scaramucci echoed the debate about how long he actually spent in the White House when he said, to laughter from the audience, “I really do appreciate you guys saying [I was there for] 11 days, because some people say 10, and it hurts my feelings.”
During the question-and-answer portion, a student asked if Scaramucci could predict who would be fired from the White House next. Scaramucci refused to venture a guess but spoke about his own high-profile firing.
“The media built me a shame box…never to be heard from again,” he retorted to more laughter. “I’m a very shy, introverted person, so that could’ve happened.”
In response to more student questions, Scaramucci shared thoughts on climate change, immigration, and running for office in the future (he said he would not). Instead, he wants to remain as a voice in politics.
Speaking to The Maroon after the talk concluded, fourth-year Matthew Foldi, College Republicans President, praised Scaramucci and the audience’s serious engagement.
“This is exactly how discussions should happen,” he said. “Not everyone here agreed with him…but he addressed that head-on right at the beginning…. It sort of took the air out of people’s desires to grandstand at the expense of everyone else at the event.”
Foldi praised the University and the University’s Center for Leadership and Involvement for helping facilitate the event and expressed excitement about the College Republicans’ upcoming Republican Leadership Initiative training being held next week.
Grace Hauck contributed reporting.
Clarification on Feb. 9, 2018, 2:38 p.m. CST:
A previous version of this article stated that "over 150" people attended the talk. The article has been updated to provide a more precise estimate of the number of attendees.
Correction on Feb. 9, 2018, 2 p.m. CST:
A previous version of this article stated that Matthew Foldi was Co-President of College Republicans. He is President. The Maroon regrets this error.