Who is Anita Dunn?

Anita Dunn escalated the Obama administration's feud with Fox News. But aside from her peculiar statement about Mao Zedong, not much is known about her outside the Beltway.

By , Staff writer

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    This May 23, 2008 file photo shows Anita Dunn in her Washington office.
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White House Communications Director Anita Dunn set the political world on fire with her comment on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Oct. 11 that Fox News was “a wing of the Republican Party,” adding “let’s not pretend they’re a news organization like CNN is.”

Fox commentator Glenn Beck mounted a counterattack, going after Ms. Dunn for a statement she made in a speech to a private school in suburban Maryland, quoting Mao Zedong and calling him one of her "favorite political philosophers."

Mr. Beck’s response: “It's insanity. This is her hero's work. She thinks of this man's work all the time? It would be like me saying to you, 'You know who my favorite political philosopher is? Adolf Hitler.”

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Dunn countered that her line about Mao “was intended as irony,” and that she got the Mao quote from the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater. A certain Fox commentator’s “sense of irony may be missing,” she quipped.

So who is Anita Dunn?

Dunn is a widely experienced Democratic political consultant who since April has been President Obama’s communications director. While Press Secretary Robert Gibbs focuses on providing frequent briefings to the White House press corps, Dunn’s assignment is finding other ways to get the Obama administration’s message out to the public.

So, for example, Dunn plays a key role in setting up on- and off-the-record briefings with the president.

One such session was held Monday with political commentators Eugene Robinson, E.J. Dionne, Ron Brownstein, John Dickerson, Rachel Maddow, Frank Rich, Jerry Seib, Maureen Dowd, Keith Olbermann, Bob Herbert, Gloria Borger, and Gwen Ifill.

Inner circle member

During Obama’s presidential campaign, Dunn was in charge of communications, research, and policy. Dunn was one of four top advisers – along with Mr. Gibbs, senior adviser David Axelrod, and campaign manager David Plouffe – interviewed by “60 Minutes” after Obama’s victory speech on election night.

She began her political career as a low-level aide in the Carter administration. Dunn worked on John Glenn’s presidential campaign and then was communications and political director for Sen. Bill Bradley, ending up as his chief of staff. In 1993 she joined the Democratic consulting firm Squier Knapp Dunn. Her consulting clients have included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

Wanting out

Dunn is a rarity in the political world – someone who did not want to work in the White House and who is eager to escape from the center of power. She reportedly was Obama’s first choice to be communications director but turned him down so she could spend more time with her young son and her husband, Bob Bauer, the president’s personal attorney.

After the president’s original choice, Ellen Moran, left to become chief of staff to the Commerce secretary, Dunn agreed to take the job on an interim basis and is very open about wanting to be done by year’s end.

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