On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Michael Patrick Leahy spoke to special guest Hogan Gidley who served as the previous deputy press secretary at the Trump White House to discuss what it was like working there and his efforts at the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute.
Leahy: We welcome to our newsmaker line, our very good friend, Hogan Gidley, who is currently the director of the Center for Election Integrity at America First Policy Institute. Welcome, Hogan.
Gidley: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate the time.
Leahy: You’ve been a friend to our program for a long time. You’re a South Carolinian.
Leahy: And you worked with Mike Huckabee, presidential campaign, and friends with Sarah Huckabee. You worked as a deputy press Secretary in Washington for some time for President Donald Trump. That must have been quite an adventure.
Gidley: It really was. And I’ll even say to a more fine point on exactly what you’re talking about before I worked for I work for Mike Huckabee when he was governor. I’ve known Sarah Sanders since he was 19.
We’ve had a long-standing relationship with that family and she was the one who kind of brought me into the administration to work for Donald Trump.
And it was an incredible four years, to say the least. I’ve seen more things and done more things than I ever thought I would do as just being a small-town kid in a little town and nowhere. Arkansas where I grew up.
And then being in South Carolina for the last 15 years, never thinking I’d be on the stage that I was on. And it was just a blessing beyond measure.
And sometimes it’s still a blur. I had someone the other day make a comment about South Korea, and it just kind of popped in my head. Hey, I went to South Korea! (Leahy chuckles) I just kind of forgotten about the fact that South Korea and North Korea, for that matter.
Leahy: Were you with the president when he stepped across the line there?
Gidley: Absolutely. I was standing there watching it. And then he put his arms out to the side as he tends to do when he speaks and I turned around, looked to the press, and I said, ya’ll he’s going. And they said, oh, my gosh.
And every expletive under the sun across, he’s going across. And sure enough, he went across. (Leahy chuckles) It was a crazy experience. Donald Trump just never slows down. So here I am, you know, 40 years old, and I couldn’t keep up with the man. Not even close.
Leahy: Nowhere, Arkansas. How far is Nowhere, Arkansas from Little Rock?
Gidley: I grew up in a town called El Dorado that’s two hours straight south of Little Rock before I went to go work for Huckabee. That’s where I kind of grew up. It’s on the Louisiana border, about 14 miles from the Louisiana border.
Leahy: Exactly. I thought you were a native of South Carolina, but you’re a native of Arkansas. You spend a lot of time in South Carolina.
Gidley: I’m kind of all over the south as you can probably tell by my accent. I was born in North Carolina, grew up for the most part in Arkansas, lived in Texas for a little bit back to Arkansas, went to Old Miss.
I’ve been to Memphis and all points in Tennessee a million times. I’m pretty familiar with it. But I’ve been up here in the swamp for the last four years, and I’m just so ready to get out, to be honest.
Leahy: Ole Miss. Now, I had never been down to Oxford’s Ole Miss until last year. And I went down to visit somebody there. And what a nice little town that is.
Gidley: It is. You’ve got to go when it’s not all COVID. You have to go down there when you get a chance to enjoy it. I know Ole Miss actually plays Tennessee, but I think it’s in Knoxville this year.
But, yeah, it’s a really, really great town. And everyone I know loves college football. And when they get a chance to go they go. It’s a wonderful place.
Leahy: It’s a great place. Let me see if my memory serves me correctly. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders left as press secretary to the president, I think you were the deputy press secretary of that time. And was she replaced by Stephanie Grisham? Do I have that right?
Gidley: That is correct. I was the principal deputy. So that’s basically the number two.
And then the president put Stephanie Grisham in that place and I served with her as well. And then served a little bit with Kayleigh.
And then the president asked me to go be the press secretary at the campaign. So I moved to the campaign in the last six months.
Leahy: I’ve got to ask you about Stephanie Grisham. (Gidley chuckles) Why on earth would a press secretary to the president of the United States after they leave that position come out with a sort of a gossipy tell-all, oh the president is a bad guy book? Why would they do that?
Gidley: Well, I can’t answer the why. I mean, Stephanie I were really close. I worked really well with her. I think that building has a way of changing people, the White House I mean. And it doesn’t change everybody for the better.
Some people go through some tough times in there. I think everyone who goes we always say the highs are really high in that building, and the lows are really low. And it gets the people in different ways.
Sometimes that’s immediate, sometimes that’s delayed. If I had private conversations with the president and the First Lady and staff, I’m really not going to share those things publicly in a book unless it’s something funny or I get permission or we talk about it first.
I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know what was going through her mind, but I hate that she would come out and kind of burn so many people along the way.
Leahy: Was your office when you worked in the Trump White House in the West Wing or was it across the way in that old gray executive office building?
Gidley: I was about 70ft from the Oval Office. I was in the West Wing. When you see the actual West Wing where they had two offices, one was right by the press briefing room when I first got there, and then they moved me up next to Sarah.
And if you look and you see the guard standing outside the door, the Marine that opens the door for people coming in and out my window was the second one to the left of that door. I was right there.
Leahy: What is that feeling like to be there right at the nexus of power?
Gidley: You know, it’s such an interesting question. I don’t know that I’ve been asked that before. You realize that your policies actually do affect people in a way that I don’t think you can realize fully until what I’ve seen lately with the current administration changing all of our policies and putting in policies that hurt families.
What Trump did was he implemented policies that made people’s lives better regardless of race, religion, color, or creed. And that’s an interesting, incredible feeling to see and to be standing next to the president of the United States when he makes decisions that impact people here at home, but also the world.
You walk out of that door and there’s a Marine standing there and he opens the door for you every time you come in and out. And that Marine is supposed to be there when the president is in the Oval Office. And you can imagine Donald Trump was in the Oval Office more than most presidents.
There was a Marine there for a long time. It’s just so surreal to walk by and see those little things like the Secret Service and the Marines doing what they do and walking into rooms where you knew past Presidents had to make gut-wrenching decisions and had to make policies that really impacted decades into the future. The columns in the Rose Garden, just walking by I would just walk by and touch them.
Leahy: Yeah, absolutely. Now that you’re out of the White House, you work for the Center for Election Integrity at America First Policy Institute. Your boss great guy, Ken Blackwell.
I got a quote from Ken for a story I did a Breitbart. He’s criticizing the latest Democrat effort to steal elections known as HR4. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. They held the hearing yesterday about it. What is your take on that bill?
Gidley: It’s a horrible bill. At the Center for Election Integrity, myself and Ken are really focused on making sure states actually pass laws that protect every legal voter and every legally cast vote.
But at the same time, you have to be aware of the onslaught coming from a federal government, which is typical of a big government ideology that they’re going to take over everything. And now they want to take over elections.
So the same people that had no idea how to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years are the same people who left Americans stranded. That’s the same people who say, hey, let us now handle your elections in states.
They cannot run elections in our state. They can’t run anything. And so it’s very difficult to sit here and watch them try to come into states and tell you and your state how to run things. They can’t do it.
Not just because they’re bad at it, because constitutionally they can’t do it. So we’ve got to fight that kind of a two-front war right now to try and get good laws passed at the local level, but ensure that the federal government doesn’t take over the whole process as well.
Leahy: Hogan Gidley, the executive director of the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute. Thanks for joining us.
Listen to the second hour here:
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Photo “Hogan Gidley and President Trump” by Hogan Gidley.