Christopher Ruddy has a knack for making headlines in the Trump era.
The CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media has leveraged his longtime friendship with Donald Trump to make himself into the media’s go-to “ally,” “friend,” and “confidant” of the new president. While White House spokespeople are giving fewer interviews lately, Ruddy is always there to be that named source close to the president in The New York Times or The Washington Post, or to helpfully tweet a rundown of his latest interaction with POTUS.
He both claims to speak only for himself and purports to offer a window into the president’s thinking. His statements can carry the weight of the commander in chief’s beliefs, or he can be just another conservative pundit who supports the president, depending on the hour. And figuring out which is which can be tough for Washington to figure out.
Take Monday, for example.
After spending a few hours at the White House, Ruddy went on PBS and unleashed a Level 5 political shitstorm with a single sentence: “I think [Trump is] considering perhaps terminating the special counsel [Robert Mueller].” Ruddy added that he thought that would be a bad decision, but was it true that Trump could fire the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, a move that would likely throw Washington into chaos?
White House spokesman Sean Spicer responded that Ruddy didn’t discuss Mueller with the president and that Trump and his lawyers are the only ones authorized to comment. But Spicer didn’t deny that Trump had been considering it, as Ruddy pointed out Tuesday morning. That could also be self-preservation, as Trump has a habit of contradicting unequivocal statements from his spokespeople.
Ruddy also took a gratuitous shot at Spicer in a statement to CNN: “Memo to Sean: Focus your efforts on exposing the flim-flam Russian allegations against POTUS and highlighting his remarkable achievements! Don’t waste time trying to undermine one of your few allies.”
The ambiguity and feuding led to another round of speculation.
True or not, Ruddy was ready to give more interviews about it, speaking with CNN, ABC, and NBC News Tuesday (but sadly not VICE News, as he declined to speak with us). “I think it is a consideration the president has had because Mueller is illegitimate as special counsel,” Ruddy told CNN. “[R]emember: There is no evidence of wrongdoing, there’s no evidence of collusion, there’s no evidence of obstruction.”
Naturally, Ruddy added, “I always speak for myself and not the president. He has his own spokesman.” But wait — wasn’t he also reporting on the president’s thinking?
His role as pseudo White House spokesman has at times brought out the knives among the White House staff. After a meeting with Trump in February, Ruddy said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was on the chopping block. Another Ruddy-formed shitstorm ensued. “This sounds like somebody with an ax to grind who has no real access to the president,” a senior administration official told The New York Times anonymously. The next weekend, Ruddy was spotted grabbing dinner with Priebus, Trump, and Steve Bannon, which only bolstered his credibility as a source.
Ruddy later acknowledged that he and Trump didn’t actually discuss Priebus and then used the handy shield that he was speaking for himself. As he told The Atlantic, he was “just giving my opinion — I’ve done that always.”
And he has continued to do so.
The day in March when Trump accused President Barack Obama, without any evidence, of wiretapping him, Ruddy said the president called him twice to talk about it. Ruddy then wrote a column about the conversations and recounted, “When I mentioned Obama ‘denials’ about the wiretaps, he shot back, ‘This will be investigated, it will all come out. I will be proven right.’”
Ruddy tried to explain to Real Clear Politics about how he decides to share some things and not others from his conversations with Trump, saying, “I make a decision as to what I think he would like or not like, if I share something he said.”
He elaborated: “[o]nce in a blue moon he will say, ‘We gotta keep this confidential,’ and I always live by that. But very rarely will he say this to me now.”
When it comes to Ruddy, it’s hard to know what’s fact, opinion, or simply pulled from the president’s own reality.