For a time this week it looked like Sean Spicer’s number was finally up as press secretary.
On Monday the New York Times reported on rumours within the White House that President Donald Trump would soon shake-up of his staff, bigly, “probably starting with the dismissal or reassignment of Sean Spicer, the press secretary.” Trump reportedly reassured Spicer his job was safe, but then on Tuesday Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle announced she was in talks with the White House to replace Spicer, saying the job requires “someone really determined and focused, a great communicator in there with deep knowledge to be able to handle that position.”
READ MORE: Sean Spicer must step up—or quit
An anonymous White House source said Trump was furious with Guilfoyle for what she did, and declared Spicer’s job safe. And so Spicer survives for another day: 119, as of May 18, and counting.
If Spicer does get the boot in the next little while, it would be unprecedented in the history of White House press secretaries. It’s a gruelling job, but only in very specific circumstances have past press secretaries stepped down or been let go after this many days on the job.
That’s clear from this chart, which compares Spicer’s time on the job to the five shortest stints as press secretary, and the tenure of the first press secretary for each of Trump’s three predecessors.
Here are the five shortest press secretary runs, and why they left the job:
• Jerald terHorst lasted just 31 days under Gerald Ford, quitting when Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for any crimes he committed as president.
• Jonathan Daniels was on the job for 47 days, serving when Franklin Roosevelt died in office and staying on shortly thereafter for the transition to Harry Truman.
• James Brady was shot in an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan just 69 days into Reagan’s first term.
• Jake Siewart’s job was over after 112 days when Bill Clinton’s second term ended.
• Roger Tubby’s job, likewise, came to an end along with the end of Truman’s second term, after 124 days.
If we wanted, we could add Clinton’s first communications director George Stephanopoulos to the mix—Stephanopoulos regularly, and evasively, handled press briefings even though he wasn’t the official press secretary. He was pulled from the podium after 138 days to make way for Clinton’s first actual press secretary, Dee Dee Myers.
With so much uncertainty swirling around Spicer’s—not to mention his boss’s—future, it will be remarkable if he survives on the job as long as Myers, who lasted 702 days. Likewise, President Barack Obama’s first spokesman, Robert Gibbs lasted 753 days while George W. Bush’s first press secretary Ari Fleischer stayed put for 902 days.
If Spicer does surprise the world, though, and outlasts those three, what would it take to set the record for longest-serving press secretary? That title is held by Stephen Early, Roosevelt’s first spokesman, and is now legally impossible to break—Early fielded press questions for nearly all of Roosevelt’s three terms, or 4,400 days.
The 22nd amendment, restricting all future presidents to two terms in office, means Spicer—and his boss—are limited to a total of 2,921 days on the job.
But who’s counting?