- George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
West Palm Beach resident and Mar-a-Lago Club member Christopher Ruddy says he doesn’t need a TV appearance to send a message to President Donald Trump.
Ruddy, the CEO of Boca Raton-based conservative outlet Newsmax Media, fueled a firestorm of speculation when he told Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour on Monday that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller and that doing so would be a “significant mistake.”
Ruddy was interviewed after visiting the White House — but not the president — earlier in the day.
“I think he’s considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,” Ruddy told Woodruff.
Ruddy added: “I personally think it would be a very significant mistake, even though I don’t think there’s a justification….for a special counsel in this case.”
TV interviews are seen as an effective way to reach voracious media consumer Trump, but Ruddy said that wasn’t his goal.
“No effort to deliver message, I can and do speak (with) him confidentially on issues I think important,” Ruddy said Tuesday in a text message exchange with The Palm Beach Post.
After Ruddy’s comments went viral on Monday night, White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that Ruddy hadn’t spoken with Trump on Monday and said only Trump or his attorneys were authorized to comment on the matter.
Ruddy pushed back Tuesday morning in an email to Politico Playbook.
“Spicer issued a bizarre late night press release that a) doesn’t deny my claim the President is considering firing Mueller and b) says I didn’t speak to the President about the matter — when I never claimed to have done so. 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,” Ruddy told Politico.
Ruddy wouldn’t reveal who he met with at the White House on Monday. But he told The Palm Beach Post his comment that Trump was “considering” firing Mueller was based on conversations with “a half dozen people familiar w pres thinking on the matter.”
Newsmax is headquartered in Boca Raton and has become an influential outlet in the Trump administration. Its Washington correspondent, John Gizzi, regularly gets called upon to ask questions during White House press briefings.
Ruddy has spoken with the president several times since Trump took office, and his Twitter account includes a March 1 photo of himself with Trump in the Oval Office.
In February, after talking with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Ruddy told CNN that he didn’t think the president was being well-served by chief of staff Reince Priebus. Later in the day, however, Ruddy tweeted that he had been assured by presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner that Priebus was doing an “amazing job.”
In March, after Trump on Twitter accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, Ruddy offered a glimpse of Trump’s state of mind in a Newsmax column.
“I spoke with the President twice yesterday about the wiretap story. I haven’t seen him this pissed off in a long time,” Ruddy wrote on March 5. “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, 52, lives in a golf course development in West Palm Beach and is registered to vote with no party affiliation.
Ruddy and Newsmax have made more than $900,000 in political contributions over the years, including more than $500,000 to a variety of Republican Party organs nationally and in Florida. Newsmax also gave $100,000 to Republican Rick Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political committee during Scott’s first run for governor in 2010.
The overwhelming majority of Ruddy’s contributions have been to Republicans, but he also contributed to Joe Lieberman’s independent bid for Senate in 2006 and he gave $500 apiece to the 2012 Democratic campaigns of Dave Aronberg for Palm Beach County state attorney and Maria Sachs for state Senate. Newsmax also gave $500 to Democratic state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo’s 2010 campaign.
Ruddy was a newspaper reporter in the 1990s who gained fame as a critic of former President Bill Clinton. He authored a 1997 book that questioned the official account of Clinton confidant Vince Foster’s suicide and launched Newsmax in 1998 with billionaire Clinton antagonist Richard Mellon Scaife as an investor.
But Ruddy later became a friend of Bill Clinton and seven-figure donor to the Clinton Foundation. He said in an April 2015 interview with The Palm Beach Post that Hillary Clinton would “probably make a good president,” but that he would rather see a Republican win.
Ruddy at the time said he liked then-GOP frontrunner Jeb Bush for president — but he also foresaw problems that ultimately doomed Bush’s candidacy and paved the way for Trump.
“I really like Jeb Bush,” Ruddy said at the time. “I think Jeb was a fantastic governor of the state of Florida. He has great executive abilities. He’s a philosophical conservative. But so far Jeb has not been connecting with the base of the Republican Party.”