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West Wing Wiki

Donna Moss is the Chief of Staff to First Lady Helen Santos. She previously served as Senior Assistant to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman and worked on both the Russell and Santos presidential campaigns in 2006, as well as Josiah Bartlet’s campaigns in 1998 and 2002. She is portrayed by Janel Moloney.

Early Life[]

Donnatella Moss was born in Warroad, Minnesota, to an Italian mother and an Irish father[1] who by 2004 had been married for thirty-nine years.[2] Her parents moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where they raised their daughter in a condo.[3] Warroad would be retroactively repositioned into Canada, stripping Donna of her United States citizenship until she was able to have it restored by a grandfather clause.[4] Her family is Protestant.[5] She has cousins who live in Oklahoma[6] in addition to her cousins, aunt Barbara, and uncle Ted in Wisconsin.[7]

In high school Donna played the flute and was the best in her row.[8] When she was sixteen she lost her virginity with Freddy Briggs.[9] She was one of the twelfth graders who came in two hours early to take an AP English class that Molly Morello taught and developed herself because the school didn’t offer one.[10]

She attended the University of Wisconsin for two years, during which she had five majors and two minors: Political Science and Government, Sociology and Psychology, and Biology with minors in French and Drama.[11] While a student she befriended Casey Reed, who would later offer her a job as issues director at Capitol Scoop,[12] and Stephanie Gault, with whom she shared an ex-boyfriend.[13]

Donna describes President Bartlet as the first winner she'd voted for, indicating she voted for the Democratic challenger in the 1994 Presidential Election rather than the Republican incumbent (and winner).[14]

She dated a medical student who convinced her to drop out of school and support him during his residency. After she broke up with him, she drove from Madison to Manchester, New Hampshire, to volunteer for the Bartlet for America campaign. In February she hired herself as Josh Lyman’s assistant, and after he caught her answering his phone, Josh gave her the job for real. She was still working for him by the Illinois Primary (held in March),[11] but afterwards Donna reconciled with her boyfriend and returned to Madison. She was in a car accident, injuring her ankle, and broke up with her boyfriend again after he stopped for a beer with his friends on his way to the hospital. She returned to the Bartlet campaign in April and told Josh the bandage on her ankle was from slipping on ice due to a late thaw in Madison.[15] During the campaign she stayed with the Flenders in Hartsfield's Landing.[16]

Bartlet Administration (1999-2005)[]

Following Bartlet's election as the President of the United States, Donna became the Senior Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning. Before Bartlet took office she was given a tour by her predecessor Jeff Johnson, who tricked her into believing there were radioactive warheads on the White House grounds and to repeat his lie in an interview with his girlfriend for 21 magazine. When Josh made fun of her for the interview, Donna teamed up with her friend Michael Gordon in the staff secretary's office to trick him into thinking the NSA was investigating her.[17]

Donna often asked Josh about governmental policy in order to better understand subjects like budget surpluses,[18] the designated survivor,[19] "Take Out the Trash" Day,[20] the F.E.C.,[21] terrorism,[22] foreign aid,[23] Puerto Rican statehood,[24] and senate procedure.[25] She occasionally gave Josh bursts of inspiration, such as using the Antiquities Act to save Big Sky Federal Reserve[26] and getting Evelyn Baker Lang as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by allowing the Republicans to name a justice too.[2] Casey Reed considered her job equivalent to a Master's Degree.[12]

She drove to the hospital after hearing there had been a shooting at Rosslyn out of concern for the president, and when she got there, Toby Ziegler told her that Josh was among the victims.[27] During Josh's recovery she instituted "the Rules" to prevent his colleagues from coming to him before he was better.[28] She noticed Josh's erratic behavior as he suffered from untreated PTSD and went to Leo McGarry about her concerns; after Josh's first appointment with Stanley Keyworth, Donna took him to the ER to get the cut on his hand stitched up.[29]

During Bartlet's first term she dated Donald,[30] Todd, an insurance lobbyist with Travis West,[8] and an unnamed lawyer;[31] however, her feelings for Josh had become obvious to Joey Lucas,[22] and Amy Gardner had heard rumors they were dating.[32]

Toby told her about the president's multiple sclerosis, making her the first assistant to be told. She put together a room where everyone who knew could meet to discuss going public.[33] She attended Mrs. Landingham's funeral with the other assistants and the press conference following the president's disclosure with Margaret Hooper.[34] She was assigned to sort through paperwork for the subsequent investigation.[35]

When Senator Stackhouse filibustered the healthcare bill, Donna realized it was because he had an autistic grandson, and she remembered the rules for a filibuster in the Senate that allowed other senators to ask him questions and spare the elderly senator from a prolonged filibuster.[25]

Ainsley Hayes set Donna up with Cliff Calley, a Republican lawyer recently transferred to House Government Oversight, which had taken over the investigation into the concealment of Bartlet's MS.[35] While in her apartment he saw her diary, and when she testified during her deposition that she didn't keep one, he knew she had perjured herself and confronted her outside her apartment. Josh arranged for Cliff to read the diary so he knew there was no entries pertinent to the investigation, sparing Donna a perjury trial.[36] Cliff approached Josh through Donna to suggest that Bartlet accept a congressional censure to end the government investigation.[37] Donna confronted Abigail Bartlet at her birthday party over her complicity in the scandal as a medical practitioner, leading to Dr. Bartlet's decision to suspend her license while her husband was in office to end the Medical Board investigation.[38]

Josh sent her to North Dakota to represent the administration at a DNC platform meeting where residents hoped to add eliminating "North" from their state's name to the Democratic platform because they thought it negatively affected perception of their state and therefore tourism.[39]

She met Jack Reese on the day of the 2002 Election when she asked him to switch votes with her after she accidentally voted for Robert Ritchie,[40] which he did. She asked Josh to set her up with the officer, and though Josh told several embarrassing stories about her, Jack asked Donna out.[1] Donna spent Christmas at the Washington Inn with him.[41] When Jack was transferred to Aviano after he followed the president's orders, unwittingly upsetting the Secretary of Defense Miles Hutchinson, Donna took credit for the inflammatory quote Jack gave a researcher with The Washington Post about tensions between civilian and military staffers at the White House. This angered the senior staff until Josh realized Donna couldn’t have known the quoted information.[42][43]

In California Donna was photographed having a meeting with Ivan Perez, head of the California Agricultural Laborers Association and (unbeknownst to her) a communist, which negatively affected Sam Seaborn's campaign for congress.[44]

Donna participated in the federal budget negotiations,[45] saved Social Security,[46] and oversaw presidential pardons.[47] Her dissatisfaction with the limits of her job grew after she helped with trade talks for months, only to get left out of the Brussels summit.[48] In apology, Josh sent her on a Congressional Delegation to the Gaza Strip. She sent frequent emails to Josh during the trip and had a fling with Colin Ayres, an Irish photojournalist. A roadside bomb hit the vehicles carrying the American delegation, killing Admiral Fitzwallace, Congressman Korb, Congressman DeSantos, and two others, and critically wounding Donna, who was flown to Germany for emergency surgery on a collapsed lung, a broken leg, and other injuries. Josh flew there to be by her side,[49] and Colin and her mother also came to be with her. She had a second surgery to repair a pulmonary embolism.[50] She told Josh to return to Washington D.C.[51]

Josh picked her up at Andrews Air Force Base before she resumed work, and he gave her a pen from the treaty signing.[52] She helped Toby interview candidates for press secretary.[53] When Kate Harper reached out to her, Donna rejected her offer but admitted she had symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.[54] Donna was hounded by producers to give an interview or sell the rights to her story, which she might have done if it would help the peacekeeping efforts, but when she was told it would require her to quit her job at the White House, she decided against it.[55] She later quit anyway[56] and afterwards interviewed for a job with Will Bailey, Vice President Bob Russell’s campaign manager for the 2006 presidential election.[57]

2006 Presidential Election[]

Donna was hired to do media targeting for the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, but she ended up doing multiple jobs for the Russell campaign such as delivering letters from Russell supporters defending the New Hampshire primary to the DNC,[58] fundraising in North Carolina and recruiting fringe candidates to pack the debate stage in Iowa,[59] and advising Russell before the first primary debate. She was caught on camera fighting with the volunteers in chicken suits Josh sent to shame Russell and Hoynes into widening the New Hampshire debate.[60]

Frustrated as "master of all tasks," Donna asked Will to take over an issue area, but instead he surprised her with a promotion to spokesperson. She publicly questioned why Hoynes wasn't in California on Super Tuesday, leading to the discovery that he was hiding from allegations he'd had an affair with an intern while he was a senator.[61] She was skeptical of making Santos Russell's candidate as vice president when she spoke about the offer with Josh, thinking Democrats would be willing to wait for the next election to vote for Santos.[62]

After Santos won the Democratic nomination, Donna applied to work as the deputy campaign manager on Santos/McGarry for a Brighter America, but Josh rejected her due to her months of personal attacks on Santos while working for the Russell campaign.[63] Communications Director Louise “Lou” Thornton hired her behind Josh's back as a campaign spokesperson[64] and forced them to reconcile.[65] Donna reassured Helen Santos after pictures of her underwear were published in the papers.[66]

Donna and Josh spontaneously kissed after Santos tied with Vinick in the polls. Donna tried to pass Josh the key to her hotel room, but Edie Ortega believed she had forgotten her key and returned it.[67] They slept together on the night before the election. Donna tried to sneak out the morning after, but Josh stopped her. They slept together again to de-stress and were caught by Ronna Beckman and Edie.[68] Donna comforted Josh after Leo McGarry was found dead.[69] She attended Leo's funeral and the reception afterwards at the White House, but refused to spend the night at Josh's apartment because she had already asked C.J. for a place to stay.[70]

Helen Santos asked Donna to become her Chief of Staff, an offer Donna accepted. She told Josh they had four weeks to figure out what they were to each other or they should end their relationship. When the stress of the transition overwhelmed Josh, Sam Seaborn gave him an ultimatum to take a vacation or he wouldn’t join the administration as the Deputy Chief of Staff, and Josh invited Donna to join him.[71] They attended the inauguration together.[72]



Political History


  • In the original script for the Pilot, Donna’s age is given as 25 in the autumn of 1999. From "What Kind of Day Has It Been?" to “And It's Surely to Their Credit,” Josh has Donna’s birthday on his blackboard, placing it sometime between August and November and setting her birth in the late summer or autumn of 1974.
  • Donna has received multiple parking tickets for failing to obey "no parking" signs.[73]
  • Her handwriting is illegible to the point that Josh mistakes "panda bear" for "banana bar"[74] and "landing gear" as "landing geek."[75]
  • She is a fan of Yo-Yo Ma, comparing him favorably to Pablo Casals and Mstislav Rostropovich.[29]
  • Donna tells Colin Ayres her drink of choice is a rusty nail, like her father,[49] but on a date she orders whiskey sours.[8] She doesn’t drink red wine, only white.[55]



See Also[]

Jeff Johnson
Senior Assistant to the Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning
Marla Whorisky (temp)
Amy Gardner
Chief of Staff to the First Lady of the United States

Notes and References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Arctic Radar
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Supremes
  3. Ways and Means
  4. Dead Irish Writers
  5. In Excelsis Deo
  6. Disaster Relief
  7. Han
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 The Portland Trip.
  9. The Stormy Present
  10. Stirred
  11. 11.0 11.1 In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part II)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Night Five
  13. Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail
  14. Election Night
  15. 17 People
  16. Hartsfield's Landing
  17. Debate Camp
  18. Mr. Willis of Ohio
  19. He Shall, from Time to Time...
  20. Take Out the Trash Day
  21. Let Bartlet Be Bartlet
  22. 22.0 22.1 The War at Home
  23. Bad Moon Rising
  24. Galileo
  25. 25.0 25.1 The Stackhouse Filibuster
  26. Enemies
  27. In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part I)
  28. The Midterms
  29. 29.0 29.1 Noël
  30. The Crackpots and These Women
  31. The Two Bartlets
  32. The Women of Qumar
  33. 18th and Potomac
  34. Two Cathedrals
  35. 35.0 35.1 Ways and Means
  36. War Crimes
  37. H.Con - 172
  38. Dead Irish Writers
  39. We Killed Yamamoto
  40. Election Night
  41. Holy Night
  42. Inauguration (Part I)
  43. Inauguration: Over There (Part II)
  44. The California 47th
  45. Separation of Powers
  46. Shutdown
  47. The Benign Prerogative
  48. Talking Points
  49. 49.0 49.1 Gaza
  50. Memorial Day
  51. The Birnam Wood
  52. Third-Day Story
  53. Liftoff
  54. The Hubbert Peak
  55. 55.0 55.1 The Dover Test
  56. Impact Winter
  57. Faith Based Initiative
  58. Opposition Research
  59. King Corn
  60. Freedonia
  61. La Palabra
  62. Things Fall Apart
  63. The Ticket
  64. The Mommy Problem
  65. The Al Smith Dinner
  66. Running Mates
  67. The Cold
  68. Election Day (Part I)
  69. Election Day (Part II)
  70. Requiem
  71. Transition
  72. Tomorrow
  73. The Short List
  74. Six Meetings Before Lunch
  75. Angel Maintenance