A semi-apologetic 'Mooch' addresses Philly luncheon

Anthony Scaramucci
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci in better times outside the White House.

Unlike the administration he represented for 10 heady days in July, Anthony Scaramucci does a fair bit of apologizing these days — but always, of course, with caveats.

In a speech and question-and-answer session at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon, Scaramucci acknowledged that he “shouldn’t have said those vulgar comments” — the profanity-laced, unprintable-in-a-family-newspaper interview he gave to the New Yorker that ultimately ended his tenure as White House communications director. But then he lamented that the press had “taken the story and tried to mash and disfigure my life as a person.”

He apologized for the eye-popping poll his new media venture, the Scaramucci Post, posted on Twitter last month, asking how many Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust: “If you were offended by it, I hope you’ll accept my apology,” he said.

Then, the caveat: his business partner — “a practicer of Orthodox Judaism” — had posted the poll trying to make a point about the public’s lack of knowledge surrounding the Holocaust, he said. Scaramucci himself had been speaking at Oxford University when the poll dropped. “I was like, oh, man, this is not going to go well for me,” he said. (He said he has since learned from a friend, the Philadelphia-based freelance journalist Laura Goldman, that “as a policy, you should stay away from matters related to the Holocaust.”)

Since he became a household name this summer, Scaramucci, a former Goldman Sachs executive who ran his own investment firm until he sold it in January, anticipating a move to the White House that came months later and lasted just over a week, has tried on a number of hats. He’s launched the media venture and maintains a position on the advisory board at Tufts University, his alma mater. (Since the Holocaust poll, students have been circulating a petition for his removal.)

He told the room at the Loews Hotel Thursday of his early days on the Trump campaign and an initial conversation with campaign staff: If the New Yorker reporter who recorded his infamous interview had rolled tape during that conversation, “well, that would have been a doozy,” Scaramucci said. And he was blithe about his eventual firing: “John Kelly fired me and put my head on a stick, but I have an enormous amount of respect for him.”

He was similarly optimistic about his former employer’s agenda, and predicted a Trump win in 2020, largely because it’s hard to unseat an incumbent president. In a brief interview after his speech, The Mooch waved away Democratic gains in Tuesday’s election as normal political blips.

Scaramucci said he’d first sensed a change in American politics in 2016 at a Trump rally in Arizona, speaking to disaffected working-class voters who showed up by the thousands — “mostly white,” he clarified after an audience member asked about the demographics of the crowd. “We have to figure that out, because we’ve got a mosaic in this country.”

And he defended the Trump administration against charges of bigotry, saying that white supremacists like Richard Spencer and David Duke were only latching onto Trumpism to raise their own profiles. “You’ve got to have a zero tolerance policy for neo-Nazis,” he said, referencing Trump’s tortured, much-criticized response to the killing of a counterprotester at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this summer. (Still, another caveat: “The percentage of people in that category is infinitesimally small.”)

Asked what he would change about the administration, he said he’d “dial down the rhetoric about the press,” get Trump to start filling some of the vacancies in his administration, and encourage the president to engage more with Congress.

All of those things, he noted, were in the communications plan he’d drawn up.