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West Wing Wiki

My IQ doesn't break the bank and I wanted to do this so I studied all the time. And I missed something or it's like I skipped a year 'cause I never learned what you do after you think you like somebody
—Josh to Amy Gardner[src]

Josh Lyman works as the Deputy White House Chief of Staff during the Bartlet Administration. Lyman later works as the campaign manager for Matt Santos and eventually takes a position as Chief of Staff during the Santos Administration.


Josh was born in 1961, approximately. His age having been given as 38 in 1999. He is from Westport, Connecticut, and graduated from Harvard University, where he worked at the Harvard Crimson. He also graduated from Yale Law School. Josh is a non-practising Jew. His grandfather was held in the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz Birkenau, during World War II. Of his close relatives, only his mother was still alive by the time he worked at the White House. Josh carried guilt for the death of his older sister, Joanie, who died in a house fire while she was baby-sitting the young Josh, who had escaped the burning hot house without her with the incident leaving Josh guilt-ridden as he blamed himself for her death.


Josh originally worked for Senator John Hoynes, Bartlet's opponent for the Democratic nomination for president in 1998.  He traveled to New Hampshire to see then-Governor Jed Bartlet speak at the request of Leo McGarry, an old friend of Josh's father. Josh was immediately impressed with Bartlet's authenticity. Josh left Hoynes's campaign to work for Bartlet, but not before stopping in New York to recruit his close friend Sam Seaborn to join up as well.  This became a point of tension between Josh and Hoynes when the latter became Bartlet's first Vice President.

Shortly after Josh joined the Bartlet campaign, he hired Donnatella Moss as his assistant; she left shortly thereafter, but returned permanently. Donna then transitioned into the White House as Josh's assistant, close friend, and eventually girlfriend.

Josh's father died the night Bartlet won the critical Illinois Primary.  Bartlet surprised Josh by coming to the airport and offering support.  This was the beginning of a close relationship between Josh and Bartlet; as now-President Bartlet raged at God over the death of his Executive Secretary, Dolores Landingham, he refered to Josh as "my son".

Josh was one of President Bartlet's top political advisors. Sam refers to him as having a "world-class political mind" and Will Bailey states he "has the finest political mind in the party, after Leo".  He was a key player in most of the Bartlet administration's major initiatives, and took the lead on legislative affairs.  Josh briefly lost that responsibility after a run-in with Idaho Senator Chris Carrick; after Josh tried to turn Carrick's constituents against him, the senator switched parties.  In the political fallout, Josh's legislative portfolio shifted to the newly-hired political consultant Angela Blake.  When Blake was unable to negotiate a budget deal with hostile Republican leadership, President Bartlet walked away from the table, causing a government shutdown.  In the days that followed, First Lady Abbey Bartlet convinced her husband to let Josh back in, and his approach to the budget impasse finally netted results.

Josh was critically wounded after being shot by white supremacists in Rosslyn, Virginia.  Josh was rushed into emergency surgery and spent a substantial amount of time in the hospital.  He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the shooting. He eventually saw a specialist, Dr. Stanley Keyworth, for therapy after his colleagues grew concerned over his erratic behavior.

He also played a key role in President Bartlet's three appointments to the United States Supreme Court. The double nomination of Evelyn Baker Lang and Christopher Mulready was his brainchild, and he personally persuaded Toby, key Democratic Senator Roland Pierce, and the President that the idea was not only feasible but the best move for the White House.

He continued to play a major role in the Bartlet administration and the reelection campaign until late in Bartlet's second term. After a meeting with Texas Congressman Matt Santos, he urged Santos run for the presidency. Josh subsequently left his position at the White House to act as campaign manager for the Santos/McGarry for a Brighter America campaign, and was appointed Chief of Staff  when Santos emerged victorious.


Josh had strong relationships with his colleagues, as well as with his family and Presidents Bartlet and Santos. He was in a relationship with Mandy Hampton, during the first Bartlet for America campaign. For several years spanning both of President Bartlet's terms, Josh had an on-again-off-again relationship with Democratic political operative Amy Gardner.

Josh's most significant relationship was with his assistant and later girlfriend Donnatella Moss.  The two shared palpable romantic and sexual tension for years before finally acting on their feelings in the final days of the 2006 presidential campaign.  He then took Donna with him on a vacation during the Santos transition.

Josh was treated like a "younger brother" by Toby Ziegler and C.J. Cregg;  inversely, Charlie Young treated Josh like a older brother, and Josh considered Leo McGarry and Josiah Bartlet as father figures. During his rant at God in the cathedral at the end of Season 2, Bartlet said of Josh, "That was my son!", speaking of the shooting.

Josh's relationship with Toby was strained by Josh leaving the White House, though the two made strides towards reconciliation after their feud came to a head during Toby's prosecution for the shuttle leak.  He leveraged his friendship with Sam in convincing him to come aboard as his deputy chief of staff in the Santos administration.  Josh tried to the do the same with C.J., but she opted to leave the White House after Bartlet's second term expired.





Josh Lyman – I want to be a comfort to my friends in tragedy. And I want to be able to celebrate with them in triumph. And for all the times in between, I just want to be able to look them in the eye
Josh Lyman – I'm just saying, if you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for a beer
Donna Moss – If you were in an accident I wouldn't stop for red lights


  • When he was little, Josh wanted to be a (female) ballerina.
  • For the first two seasons of the West Wing, Josh wore his watch on his left wrist. However, from the West Wing Season 3 onwards, Josh begins wearing his watch on his right wrist instead. In response to a question asked during TWWW's Big Block of Cheese Day episode which aired on March 26, 2019, Bradley Whitford who portrays Josh said: "My dad was right-handed, but he broke his left arm when he got his first watch as a kid, and for the rest of his life he wore his watch on his right wrist. He was in the Navy on a minesweeper in the Pacific during World War II—he called it ‘The Big One’. The other guys noticed it and it became a good luck thing for them. Dad died on the Father’s Day after we shot the Pilot. It was a busy time, babies were coming and growing, and suddenly I was shooting every day; I didn’t have time to process his death at the time and it would wallop me in waves years down the line. I was missing him and so I moved it to my right wrist as kind of a memorial. Thanks for noticing my little Freudian forearm dance of paternal connection and separation. His name was George Whitford and he was a great dad, incredibly kind, and funny as hell".


  • The name "Josh Lyman" was first used in connection with the White House in the Garry Trudeau cartoon strip Doonesbury in 1993. The character was a White House media liaison officer working for President Bill Clinton, encountered by Doonesbury regular Joanie Caucus. Apart from the name and setting, there appears to be no other similarity with the West Wing character, although a framed copy of the strip hangs in Josh's office. Oddly (or perhaps not) Joanie is given as the name of Josh's sister.
  • Josh Lyman shares several similarities with former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, although he was long after the character's inception.
  • The role of Josh Lyman was written for Whitford, but when the network was unsure whether Lowe would sign on, Whitford was asked to play Sam, which he called Sorkin to deter.[1][2]


Josh Lyman/Gallery

Notes and references

Cabinet of President Matt Santos
Vice President   Eric Baker
Secretary of State   Arnold Vinick
Secretary of the Treasury   Rosenthal
Secretary of Defense   Swain
Attorney General   Oliver Babish
Secretary of Agriculture   Ed Keenitz
White House Chief of Staff   Josh Lyman
Ambassador to the United Nations   Nancy McNally

Matt McConnell
Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning
Cliff Calley
C.J. Cregg
White House Chief of Staff