Anita Dunn

Anita Babbitt Dunn (born January 8, 1958) is an American political strategist who served as a senior advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden until her resignation on August 12.[1] Previously, she served as acting White House Communications Director in the Obama White House. Additionally, she served as managing director at SKDK, a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C.,[2] and an advisor to the Biden presidential transition.[3] Dunn has worked on six Democratic presidential campaigns over a period of 40 years.[4]

Anita Dunn
Anita Dunn.jpg
Senior Advisor to the President
In office
January 20, 2021 – August 12, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byJared Kushner
Stephen Miller
Ivanka Trump
White House Communications Director
In office
April 21, 2009 – November 30, 2009
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byEllen Moran
Succeeded byDaniel Pfeiffer
Personal details
Anita Babbitt

(1958-01-08) January 8, 1958 (age 63)
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Robert Bauer
EducationUniversity of Maryland, College Park (BA)

Early life and educationEdit

Dunn was raised in Bethesda, Maryland, the daughter of Albert E. Babbitt and Carol Hutto Babbitt. Her father's brother was the modernist composer, Milton Babbitt. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.[5]


Dunn began her career in the Carter White House,[6] first as an intern for White House Communications Director Gerald Rafshoon and then worked for chief of staff Hamilton Jordan.[7]

She worked on the campaign of U.S. Senator John Glenn (D-OH) in 1984,[6] and on Capitol Hill before joining the firm founded by Bob Squier and William Knapp in 1993. She has been the adviser and communications director to Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ),[8] and served as the chief strategist for his presidential campaign.[7][9] Dunn also served as advisor to Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD)[10] and as communications director for Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000.[11] In 2004, Anita produced the media for Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).[12] In 2006 she was hired by then-Senator Barack Obama to direct communications and strategy for his political action committee, The Hopefund. This move signaled to many that Obama was planning to run for the presidency. While advising Hopefund and Obama in 2006, she was instrumental in the preparations for the launch of Obama for America, and brought many key staffers to the Obama campaign with whom she had worked in Bayh's and Daschle's offices.[10]

Obama campaignEdit

In April 2008, it was announced that Dunn, who had joined the Obama campaign in February, would be the director of communications, policy and research operations for Obama for America, where she held the title Senior Adviser[13] and was one of the major decision makers of the Obama campaign. She was featured as one of four top advisers (along with David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Robert Gibbs) in a 60 Minutes interview held after then-President-elect Obama's November 4, 2008, victory speech at Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois. She was described, in the 60 Minutes interview, as, "a relative newcomer who handled communications, research and policy."[14] During the presidential transition of 2008–09, Dunn trained White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.[citation needed]

White House Communications DirectorEdit

Dunn served as interim White House Communications Director from April to November 2009.[7][15]

She took the lead in the Obama administration's criticism of the Fox News Channel.[16][17]

In October 2009, she appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources and was asked to discuss a statement she made to Time magazine regarding Fox News, "it's opinion journalism masquerading as news."[18] She responded by saying, "if you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN. The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party."[19] She added, "And it's not ideological. Obviously, there are many commentators who have conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. But I think what is fair to say about FOX and certainly the way we view it is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party."[20]

Following her statements, Glenn Beck played on his show a portion of a speech Dunn gave at a high school graduation, during which she referenced Mao-Tse-Tung and Mother Theresa as two of her "favorite political philosophers".[21] Beck stated that the speech revealed Dunn as a Maoist, while Dunn stated that her reference was meant to be ironic, and was a quote borrowed from Lee Atwater.[22]

Dunn left her interim post at the end of November 2009 and was replaced by her deputy Dan Pfeiffer.[23]

After leaving the White House, Dunn rejoined SKDK. Although working for a lobbying firm, White House records show that Dunn maintained strong connections with the administration where visited over 100 times since her departure in 2009.[24] At the same time the firm announced a “major expansion” emphasizing strategic communications and advocacy work for business.[25] The firm added about a dozen Obama administration insiders as the firm's staff doubled in size.[24] Among the major clients the firm took on were General Electric, AT&T, Time Warner, and Pratt & Whitney.[25] In particular, SKDKnickerbocker corporate clients have included such controversial companies as the for-profit Kaplan University and TransCanada Corp., the developer of the Keystone XL pipeline.[26] At the same time that Kaplan Education hired SKDK to block Obama's crackdown on predatory for-profit colleges, Dunn was known as “a close friend of President Obama.”[27]

Other SKD Knickerbocker clients include New York City landlords and real estate associations resisting stronger rent protections for tenants,[28] big food companies such as General Mills, Pepsi Co, Nestle, Kellogg, Viacom, and McDonalds in their fight to resist Obama-era nutritional standards for marketing foods to children,[29][30] and Google and Pfizer in their campaign to cut taxes on foreign profits.[29] Some of Dunn's own clients at SKD Knickerbocker include pro-charter lobbying groups Students First and Families for Excellent schools. Knickerbocker produced ads urging citizens and legislators to support charter schools after Mayor Bill De Blasio blocked three charter schools from opening in buildings shared by existing public schools.[31] Dunn also represented Amazon who sought PR help from SKD Knickerbocker as it developed plans to establish a second headquarters in New York City.[32]

As Dunn left her position as White House communications director, her husband Bob Bauer was named White House counsel.[33] The White House granted Bauer a waiver to ethics rules intended to prohibit administration officials from working on issues affecting their former clients for two years.[34] This exemption allowed Bauer to represent the White House, Obama's campaign, and Obama as an individual all at the same time.[35]


During her career, Dunn has been a guest or panelist on The Daily Show, 60 Minutes, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, CBS This Morning, MTP Daily, At This Hour, Deadline: White House, This Week, and State of the Union. Dunn was also interviewed for two documentaries, The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth and JFK: The Making of Modern Politics.[36]

2012 Obama campaignEdit

During the 2012 Obama campaign, Dunn helped Obama prepare for the debates.[37] When Journalist Lee Fang asked Dunn if she felt it was “disingenuous” to advise Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign “while simultaneously being paid by a lot of corporations to lobby against his reforms” Dunn said in her response, “I work with some corporations because the fact of the matter is we’re in a democracy and there’s a dialogue and people have a right to be heard. And the fact of the matter is that most of the time when I work with people, they have a story to be told and we tell it.”[38]

Harvey WeinsteinEdit

Ahead of reporting in The New York Times about Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual abuse, Weinstein reached out to Dunn for public relations advice. Dunn told Weinstein "you should accept your fate graciously, and not seek to deny or discredit those who your behavior has affected."[39] Dunn's firm stated that she was not paid for this, "was asked to speak with him by a friend" and that Weinstein was not a client of hers.[40]

2020 Biden campaignEdit

Dunn at a campaign event for Joe Biden in January 2020.

Dunn was hired as a senior advisor to Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign in 2019 to assist with communications strategy. She first met Biden in the 1980s during her time as the communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and they reconnected in 2008 when Biden was named as Obama's running mate.[4] After Biden's disappointing fourth-place finish in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses, Dunn was elevated to a more senior position managing overall campaign strategy, personnel, and finances.[41]

On September 5, 2020, Dunn was announced to be a co-chair of the Biden-Harris Transition Team, which planned the presidential transition of Joe Biden.[42][43] After Biden's victory in the general election, The Atlantic reported that Dunn was "the only person in modern presidential politics who has been in the inner circle of two winning candidates—first Barack Obama’s and now Biden’s."[4]

Biden administrationEdit

On January 15, 2021, it was announced that Dunn would serve as a senior advisor to the President of the United States in the Biden Administration. Dunn works alongside fellow senior advisors Mike Donilon and Cedric Richmond.[44]

Personal lifeEdit

Dunn is married to Robert Bauer, former partner at Perkins Coie and former personal counsel to President Obama and the White House Counsel.[45][46][47] In 2008, Newsweek named Dunn and Bauer the new "power couple" in Washington, D.C.[48]


  1. ^ Ward, Myah. "Top Biden adviser Anita Dunn leaves White House". POLITICO. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "Anita Dunn". SKD Knickerbocker. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  3. ^ Scherer, Michael (March 12, 2020). "Joe Biden appoints Jen O'Malley Dillon as new campaign manager". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Dovere, Edward-Isaac (November 30, 2020). "The Mastermind Behind Biden's No-Drama Approach to Trump". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  5. ^ "Discover the Networks | Anita Dunn". Discover The Networks. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Horowitz, Jason (October 14, 2009). "Profile of Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Martin, Jonathan (April 30, 2009). "Anita Dunn heads to the White House". Politico. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Cook, Dave (October 22, 2009). "Who is Anita Dunn?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved July 17, 2010.
  9. ^ Berke, Richard L. (October 1, 1999). "Gore and Bradley Poised to Engage in Early Debates". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Cillizza, Chris (April 8, 2008). "Obama Prepares for Fight With McCain". voices.washingtonpost. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  11. ^ Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (November 10, 2009). "Communications Director Leaves". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  12. ^ Squier Knapp Dunn bio. Archived February 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Company Web site. Retrieved March 9, 2010.
  13. ^ "In the Obama press shop". POLITICO. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  14. ^ "Obama's Inner Circle Shares Inside Story". CBS.
  15. ^ "White House Fellows" (PDF). obamawhitehouse. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Horowitz, Jason. "Newly Out In Front for White House: An Ol' Pro: Interim Media Strategist Leads Salvo Against Fox", The Washington Post, October 14, 2009; accessed October 16, 2009
  17. ^ Stelter, Brian (October 11, 2009). "Fox's Volley With Obama Intensifying". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  18. ^ "TIME". Archived from the original on October 11, 2009 – via
  19. ^ "White House Escalates War of Words With Fox News". Fox News. October 12, 2009. Archived from the original on October 17, 2009. Retrieved October 20, 2009.
  20. ^ "CNN Reliable Sources". CNN. October 11, 2009. Archived from the original on October 16, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  21. ^ More complete quote from Dunn: The third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Zedong and Mother Theresa -- not often coupled with each other, but the two people I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point which is: you're going to make choices; you're going to challenge; you're going to say why not; you're going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before. But here's the deal: These are your choices, they are no one else's. In 1947, when Mao Zedong was being challenged within his own party on his plan to basically take China over. Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Chinese held the cities, they had the army, they had the air force, they had everything on their side. And people said, "How can you win? How can you do this? How can you do this, against all of the odds against you?" And Mao Zedong said, you know, "You fight your war, and I'll fight mine." And think about that for a second. You don't have to accept the definition of how to do things and you don't have to follow other peoples choices and paths. Ok? It is about your choices and your path. You fight your own war, you lay out your own path, you figure out what's right for you. You don't let external definition define how good you are internally, you fight your war, you let them fight theirs. Everybody has their own path.
  22. ^ Suzanne Malveaux and Ed Hornick (October 16, 2009). "Obama aide fires back at Beck over Mao remarks". CNN News.
  23. ^ Cillizza, Chris (November 10, 2009). "Dunn leaving White House, Pfeiffer takes over". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
  24. ^ a b Lichtblau, Eric; Lipton, Eric (October 19, 2012). "Strategizing for the President, and Corporate Clients, Too". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  25. ^ a b Lichtblau, Eric; Lipton, Eric (October 19, 2012). "Strategizing for the President, and Corporate Clients, Too". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  26. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (October 19, 2012). "Anita Dunn, Both Insider and Outsider in Obama Camp". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (December 9, 2011). "With Lobbying Blitz, For-Profit Colleges Diluted New Rules". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  28. ^ Wang, Vivian (June 10, 2019). "Inside the Stealth Campaign for 'Responsible Rent Reform'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  29. ^ a b Fang, Lee (April 13, 2012). "The Real Hilary Rosen Scandal". The Nation : A Weekly Journal Devoted to Politics, Literature, Science, Drama, Music, Art, and Finance. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  30. ^ Fang, Lee (February 28, 2020). "Joe Biden's Chief Strategist Lobbied to Undermine Barack and Michelle Obama's Signature Initiatives". The Intercept. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  31. ^ "Pro-Charter School Group Spent Nearly $6 Million in Media Blitz | WNYC | New York Public Radio, Podcasts, Live Streaming Radio, News". WNYC. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  32. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (December 5, 2018). "Amazon Hires Public-Affairs Firms to Aid New York Efforts". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  33. ^ Landers, Peter (November 13, 2009). "Bob Bauer, Anita Dunn: In and Out at the White House". WSJ. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  34. ^ "A Limited Waiver for Bob Bauer". May 7, 2010. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  35. ^ Vogel, Kenneth P. "W.H. waives ethics rules for counsel". POLITICO. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  36. ^ "Anita Dunn". IMDb. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  37. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (October 19, 2012). "Anita Dunn, Both Insider and Outsider in Obama camp". The New York Times.
  38. ^ "VIDEO: Anita Dunn Defends Her Dual Role As White House Advisor, Influence Peddler". Republic Report. February 3, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  39. ^ Ransom, Jan (March 10, 2020). "Weinstein Appealed to Bezos and Bloomberg for Help, Documents Show" – via
  40. ^ "Former Obama Adviser Anita Dunn Helped Harvey Weinstein Strategize Before New York Times Story".
  41. ^ Glueck, Katie; Martin, Jonathan (February 7, 2020). "Joe Biden Shakes Up Campaign Leadership, Elevating Anita Dunn". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  42. ^ "Cindy McCain Joins Biden-Harris Transition Team's Advisory Board". President-Elect Joe Biden. September 28, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  43. ^ "Biden Transition Organization - Staff, Advisors". November 9, 2017. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  44. ^ Samuels, Brett (January 15, 2021). "Biden taps ex-Obama aide Anita Dunn as senior adviser". TheHill. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  45. ^ "After Months of Denials, Greg Craig Out As White House Counsel". Archived from the original on November 15, 2009. Retrieved November 13, 2009.
  46. ^ "Anita Dunn". Archived from the original on October 6, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  47. ^ "Bob Bauer". Washington Post Company. Archived from the original on November 16, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  48. ^ "The D.C. Powers – Under Obama, there will be a new elite in Washington. Some of its members", Newsweek, December 20, 2008

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Ellen Moran
White House Director of Communications

Succeeded by
Dan Pfeiffer