Trump Picks Heather Nauert, Former Fox News Anchor, As U.N. Ambassador

Dec 7, 2018
Originally published on December 8, 2018 9:48 am

Updated on Friday at 2:44 p.m. ET.

From Fox & Friends to the State Department, and now likely to the United Nations.

President Trump says he will nominate Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman and a former Fox News host, to become the next ambassador to the U.N.

"She's very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she's going to be respected by all, so Heather Nauert will be nominated for the ambassador to the United Nations," Trump told reporters Friday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Nauert will replace Nikki Haley, who is leaving the post at the end of the year.

Nauert was camera-ready when she came to the State Department in April 2017, having worked at ABC and Fox. She never traveled with and was not close to her first boss at the department, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. With Mike Pompeo in charge of State, Nauert has been on the road much more.

Yet she faced some criticism for a tourist-like Instagram post from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on a trip that was meant to focus on the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

There have been other missteps, including the time when she cited D-Day — the Allied invasion of Normandy against the Nazis — as an example of America's strong relationship with Germany.

She has been a strong defender of Trump's at the podium, something he has clearly noticed.

"She's excellent, she's been with us a long time, she's been a supporter for a long time," Trump told reporters on Nov. 1.

The State Department used to hold daily briefings. That has been scaled back to two a week, at most.

Nauert, 48, has been back and forth between her husband and two sons in New York and her job in Washington, D.C.

Before joining the Trump administration, she had no government or foreign policy experience, though she did work on some overseas assignments for ABC, including in Baghdad.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All right, as Ailsa just mentioned, something else the president was talking about today - the woman he is nominating to become the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. That would be State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, a former "Fox & Friends" host.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She's very talented, very smart, very quick. And I think she's going to be respected by all. So Heather Nauert will be nominated for the ambassador to the United Nations.

KELLY: Well, to find out more about her, let's bring in our State Department correspondent Michele Kelemen. Happy Friday to you.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hi there. So how has Heather Nauert's tenure as spokesperson been seen?

KELEMEN: Well, I kind of look at it in two different periods because when she first got there, her boss was Rex Tillerson. She didn't have much access to him, and she spent a lot of Time kind of getting to know the State Department, getting to know the diplomats. And by the time Mike Pompeo came to office, Nauert was, you know, on the secretary's plane traveling, unlike during the Tillerson time. She had been elevated to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. She was the highest-ranking woman at the time.

KELLY: So much more in the loop.

KELEMEN: Exactly. And she - when she did give briefings, she was quite a strong defender of President Obama's "America First" approach.

KELLY: I want to ask about her record. State Department spokesperson - before that, we mentioned she was at "Fox & Friends" as a journalist. I noticed you and I have not been fielding phone calls for the U.N. ambassador post.

KELEMEN: (Laughter).

KELLY: So how do her qualifications stack up against people who have held that job before?

KELEMEN: Well, her credentials compared to the others who came before her are quite thin, and that has some U.N. watchers worried because it says not so much about her, but it says what - you know, it has a lot to say about what this administration thinks about the United Nations - you know, sending someone who's a spokesperson, who is quite good at delivering a message but not necessarily one who's steeped in diplomacy.

I mean, think about the people who held it before - you know, George H.W. Bush, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke. You know, the list goes on. And even Nikki Haley who didn't have the foreign policy chops necessarily did have the political skills. You know, she came in as being a governor of South Carolina and was quite respected and earned respect on the council for that.

KELLY: You mentioned Nikki Haley, who served in this post. And it was Cabinet-level under her. Will it stay that way for Heather Nauert?

KELEMEN: No. You know, usually, Mary Louise, the Democrats elevate it to a Cabinet-level post, kind of showing how important the United Nations is. Haley insisted that it remain that way because she wanted a seat at the table in the Trump administration. But the White House has confirmed that it's going to be downgraded for Nauert.

KELLY: OK.

KELEMEN: She does still have to get Senate confirmation.

KELLY: So we'll watch that. But I want to turn you to one other thing. You mentioned Nauert's old boss Rex Tillerson, who has been mostly quiet since leaving the State Department. He made a rare public appearance in Houston this week that's creating some waves, let's say.

KELEMEN: Oh, yeah, Rex Tillerson called Trump a pretty undisciplined person who doesn't read a lot, doesn't read his briefs. He said it was a challenge to work with him especially. He's a guy who came from ExxonMobil and was very disciplined himself. And portions of this public event that he had in Houston aired on "CBS This Morning."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CBS THIS MORNING")

REX TILLERSON: We did not have a common value system. When the president would say, well, here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it - and I'd have to say to him, well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law. It violates a treaty.

(LAUGHTER)

TILLERSON: You know, it - he got really frustrated.

KELEMEN: Yeah, so he said he didn't share any values with the president, which was quite something. Hours after that aired, the president issued his rebuke via Twitter of course. He said Tillerson - and this is a quote from the president - Tillerson is dumb as a rock and lazy as hell, and...

KELLY: Dumb as a rock.

KELEMEN: And I couldn't get rid of him fast enough.

KELLY: Wow. And remind us. I mean, how many months since Rex Tillerson, the man that Trump appointed to the State Department, was running the State Department?

KELEMEN: He was the shortest tenured State Department secretary of state in history.

KELLY: Wow. NPR State Department correspondent Michele Kelemen - thanks, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: : In this story, President Trump is mistakenly referred to as President Obama in one instance.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.