UPDATE at 1:40 p.m. Friday, July 28, 2017: Politicon organizers today announced that Scaramucci, following a foul rant against White House "leakers," has canceled. They emailed this statement: “While Anthony Scaramucci decided to cancel his scheduled appearance at Politicon this year, the beauty of Politicon is that we have dozens of huge names that political junkies will love, from Chelsea Handler, James Carville, America Ferrera, Cenk Uygur and Rob Reiner to Ann Coulter, Roger Stone, Tomi Lahren, Ben Shapiro and Ana Navarro. At least now we don’t have to worry about violating any local obscenity laws!" This story was first published at 6:03 a.m. on Tuesday.
The White House's new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, is scheduled to appear at Politicon in Pasadena this weekend.
Within the last few days, Scaramucci has been elevated from one of many "Trump surrogates" speaking on cable television in support of the president to the political star of the moment. That upward trajectory was supercharged Friday when famed presidential spokesman Sean Spicer resigned, reportedly because he felt Scaramucci was a terrible choice to lead the White House communications team.
Indeed, the man known as "Mooch" is an outsider to professional communications. Spicer co-founded a public relations firm and was the top spokesman and strategist for the Republican National Committee. It's a matter that will be at the "top of the list" of topics awaiting the new White House communications chief at the "Anthony Scaramucci ’Splains" discussion with journalist Touré Neblett Saturday, says Politicon co-founder Simon Sidi. "It's the question I would ask," Sidi says.
Media professor Martin Kaplan, USC's Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society, says Scaramucci's hard-hitting, contentious style amounts to the "perfect reality-TV gravitas" needed in the Trump era.
"He has made it clear that he will say anything," Kaplan says. "A professional communicator might be required if you're representing someone with a civic message. But if what you're selling is Trump steaks, then no one has more mojo than Mooch."
That Scaramucci is likely to be the top draw for a festival expected to include appearances by Chelsea Handler, James Carville, Ann Coulter, Lesley Stahl, Joy Reid, America Ferrera, Ana Navarro, Roger Stone, Michael Steele, Jon Favreau, Adam Carolla and more, says a lot about his instant fame.
"We booked Anthony Scaramucci about two months ago," Sidi says. "He was one of the Trump surrogates on TV at the time and we thought he would be a fantastic participant. Who could have known what occurred last week? The timing couldn't have been better for us."
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Scaramucci is a former Goldman Sachs vice president who made a name — and cash — for himself with successful investment firms SkyBridge Capital and Oscar Capital Management. Despite his previous support for President Trump's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, and despite his past criticism of Donald Trump, Scaramucci became a dogged supporter of the president on television, something that surely impressed the commander-in-chief. The clincher for Trump might have been Scaramucci's manhandling of CNN, which retracted a story about a Russian investment fund with alleged ties to the financial guru. Three network employees resigned over the story.
"I've got to tell you, whatever my politics are, I have to say that guy loves Trump and will stick by him through thick and thin," Sidi says.
But with the White House in constant turmoil — Sidi says things there are "changing every hour" — will Scaramucci be able to make his L.A. commitment? "We've tripled checked, and he's coming," he says.
The event's capacity is 8,000, and Scaramucci's "in conversation" session with Touré likely will be moved from an exhibit hall to the 3,000-capacity main theater, Sidi says. The White House official also is expected to participate in two panel discussions Sunday.