- Was an advisor to the political campaigns of such notable Democrat U.S. Senators as John Glenn, Bill Bradley, Evan Bayh, and Tom Daschle
- Played a major role in laying the groundwork for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign
- Was appointed to serve as President Obama's White House communications director in 2009
- Delivered a June 2009 speech to high-school students in Maryland, where she cited Mao Zedong as one of her "favorite political philosophers"
- Resigned her post as White House communications director in November 2009
Born in 1958, Anita Dunn began her political career in the late 1970s as an intern for Gerald Rafshoon, President Jimmy Carter’s White House communications director. She then worked for Carter’s chief of staff Hamilton Jordan. In 1993 Dunn co-founded the Washington, DC-based political consulting firm, Squier Knapp Dunn Communications. She subsequently worked as an advisor to the political campaigns of such notable Democrat U.S. Senators as John Glenn (Ohio), Bill Bradley (New Jersey), Evan Bayh (Indiana), and Tom Daschle (South Dakota).
In 2006 Dunn was hired by then-Senator Barack Obama to serve as communications and strategy director for his political action committee, the Hopefund. Beginning in February 2008, Dunn played a major role in laying the groundwork for Obama's presidential campaign, a project dubbed "Obama For America" (OFA). In April 2008 Dunn became OFA's director of communications, policy, and research operations. In January 2009 OFA merged with the Democratic National Committee and became known as Organizing for America.
Eight days before Barack Obama's inauguration as U.S. President in January 2009, Dunn travled to the Dominican Republic to attend a conference hosted by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, where she told an interviewer how the Obama campaign's organizers had dealt with critics who pointed out Obama's dearth of experience in high political office: "We made experience, which was a prime target of our opponent [John McCain], we made it a negative trait," said Dunn.
After Obama was sworn into office, he named Dunn as his White House communications director.
On June 5, 2009, Dunn delivered a speech to students at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. Urging the students to follow their own inner directives when making major choices in their lives, Dunn said the following:
"... And then the third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa -- not often coupled together, but the two people that 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 that had the army. They had the airport. 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 the odds against you?' And Mao Zedong said, 'You know, you fight your war, and I’ll fight mine.' ...
"And Mother Teresa, who, upon receiving a letter from a fairly affluent young person who asked her whether she could come over and help with that orphanage in Calcutta, responded very simply, 'Go find your own Calcutta.' OK? Go find your own Calcutta. Fight your own path. Go find the thing that is unique to you. The challenge that is actually yours, not somebody else’s challenge. One of the things that we see the Obamas, both of them, Michelle and Barack, came out of backgrounds as community organizers, working...."
On October 11, 2009, Dunn was interviewed on CNN's Reliable Sources and was asked to clarify her then-recent assertion that the Fox News television network -- some of whose programming had featured stories that presented President Obama in a negative light -- was "opinion journalism masquerading as news." Dunn told CNN that "Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party."
On October 16, 2009, Fox News host Glenn Beck aired a video of Dunn's aforementioned reference to Mao Zedong. This was the first time any media outlet had given Dunn's speech any scrutiny, and the video quickly set off a firestorm of controversy. In response to her critics, Dunn said: "The Mao quote is one I picked up from the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater from something I read in the late 1980s, so I hope I don't get my progressive friends mad at me." "The use of the phrase 'favorite political philosophers' was intended as irony," she added, "but clearly the effort fell flat -- at least with a certain Fox commentator [Beck] whose sense of irony may be missing."
On November 12, 2009, Dunn resigned her post as White House communications director. She was replaced by her deputy, Dan Pfeiffer, who had served as communications director for the Obama presidential campaign. A former spokesman for Al Gore, Pfeiffer is married to Sarah Feinberg -- a senior adviser to, and spokeswoman for, Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
In October 2012, Dunn served as a debate coach for Barack Obama, helping the latter prepare for his presidential debates with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Dunn is married to Robert Bauer, who serves as a personal attorney for Barack Obama, and as counsel to the Democratic Senatorial and Congressional Campaign Committees.