Trump’s Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs Talks Westchester Origins

Eastchester native Tony Sayegh makes no bones about where he comes from.


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photos by Stefan radtke 

Long before Tony Sayegh was appointed to the position of assistant secretary of public affairs at the US Department of the Treasury, he had grown accustomed to discussing politics. A regular contributor and political analyst to Fox News since 2012 and the executive vice president of strategy firm Jamestown Associates since 2013, he had worked on more than 500 campaigns and had been deputy mayor and trustee of the town of Tuckahoe for two terms, beginning in 2003. But it all started long before that. The Eastchester native remembers the dinner table of his immigrant parents, where his analysis of all things began.

“Politics and religion were discussion staples growing up in my house, even among children,” Sayegh says with a laugh. “We didn’t shy away from such subjects.” His folks came to the US in the 1960s from Lebanon, and they weren't afraid of taboo topics. Of course, as one of the most recognizable voices of today’s conservatism, neither is the adult Tony.

“I am a first-generation American, and my parents have a deep love and appreciation for America and are traditionally conservative,” Sayegh says. Tony’s father (and namesake) is the principal of Sayegh Stone, a stone importing/exporting business he launched in Long Island City. Tony’s mother, Amale, worked briefly in the travel industry before becoming a full-time homemaker. The elder Sayeghs live on the same street as Tony, in the same house where he grew up. They see each other regularly, but Sundays are special, with dinner with Tony’s wife, the former Maria Cermele, along with their four boys and Maria’s family.

It is at that Sunday dinner table where political debate among Sayeghs and Cermeles flourishes. Just don’t expect the Fox News contributor to be at the center of it. “When my family gets together, I tend to be the least opinionated at the table. I try to listen more than talk,” Sayegh says.

At Fox, Sayegh was less reticent. A conservative voice that supported Donald Trump early in his campaign, Sayegh wasn’t known for shying away from energetic rhetoric. It was that work at Fox, along with his leadership role at Jamestown Associates, that he believes led to the president tapping him for an administration position.

Sayegh at his Eastchester home with sons (from left to right) Christian, Connor, Anthony, and Michael, along with wife Maria.

“I believe I was in a position to understand the president’s political strength, and a communications position was a natural fit,” Sayegh says. “ I had heard that the president liked watching me on Fox, and that felt pretty cool.”

In his new position, Sayegh focuses on the strategic communications and press functions within the Treasury. Today, much of that focus is on tax reform, as well as domestic and international economic issues — though the Treasury also oversees terrorism-finance tracking. It is a position that had Sayegh hitting the ground running.

“My first week was incredible. Things happen very quickly. I accompanied the treasury secretary to the G20 summit in Germany, worked on the communications there, oversaw the press conference and then flew back and appeared on Fox News — this time, in my new position — all in the same week. It was a whirlwind.”

Despite the new role, and the new pace that comes with it, Sayegh has remained focused on his family life in Westchester, though Maria welcomes the recent developments. “We are very excited about Tony’s appointment. His passion has always been politics, so we’ve made an adventure out of it. We try to bring our little guy, Anthony, to DC when we go, and we’ve been on tours of the White House and the West Wing, and we got to participate in the egg roll this year,” Maria says.

Senior staff flank Mnuchin as he affixes the signature that will appear on US currency.

photo courtesy of Tony Sayegh

Today, Sayegh’s time is spent between Washington and Westchester, with increasing time demands coming from the nation’s capital. Sayegh sees the new position as an honor, but there is no denying where he considers home. He spent elementary school through high school in the Tuckahoe public school system before going on to George Washington University in Washington, DC.

“Nothing compares [to Westchester],” he says. “But I went to college in DC, and today my walk to work takes me right through the GWU campus and past the White House, which is truly awe-inspiring. The walk really connects two very important parts of my adult professional life.”

Time for fun is a tough commodity to come by these days, but Sayegh and his family manage surprisingly well. “A great deal of our free time has been spent watching the boys play various sports on the fields in Tuckahoe, but we also love to see the Mets or Yankees when we can,” says Sayegh. His son Michael is getting ready to graduate from the University of Michigan; Christian is playing Division One lacrosse at Lehigh University; Connor is following their footsteps at Iona Prep; and Anthony is in grade school. Sayegh says they are a mostly Mets and NY Giants household, though he remains — like County Executive Rob Astorino, as he points out — a Miami Dolphins fan.

During his coveted leisure time, he can often be spotted at some of Bronxville’s noteworthy eateries. “I’ve been dying for someone to ask me about my favorite restaurants for a long time! Bronxville has so many great places close to us. We love Underhill Crossing, Kraft Bistro, and Scalini Osteria, but you’re just as likely to catch us at Burrito Poblano, Haiku, or Ciao,” he notes.

An avid tennis player, Sayegh admits that his new schedule makes it challenging to commit to his racket. Travel and the 24/7 news cycle are going to keep him from Wimbledon for a while, but it’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make. “This year, I took up paddleball and joined a league. Then, two weeks into it, the president of the United States called, and that was it for paddleball,” Sayegh laughs.

(left to right): Tony Sayegh, administration official Joseph Smith, and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TONY SAYEGH

The often-combative nature of the ongoing conservative/liberal war is something Sayegh has come to terms with, though he notes he has the ability to separate politics from his personal life. “I have some of my strongest personal relationships with my Democratic colleagues,” he says. “You develop an appreciation for their professionalism, and friendships develop. Sally Kohn, the liberal commentator who became the de facto spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street movement, is one of my closest colleagues.”

He also counts Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins as a mentor and credits former Westchester County district attorney and current Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro as a great influence in his career. And though Fox News has been embattled of late, Sayegh remains steadfast in his appreciation of the network.

“Being part of Fox News was like being on the Yankees,” he says. “There is a very real pride of being the best in the business and a collegiality among the staff there that would surprise people. It is a great team, and I was proud to be part of it.”

Despite the time spent shuttling between New York and Washington, there is no question Westchester comes first for Sayegh. It’s where his roots are; it’s where his family live; it’s where his heart is. “I love Westchester, and it is where I’ll reside permanently, no matter what position I have. Westchester is my home, and I’m very proud of that.”

 

 

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