You may have seen photos of the Trump family meeting with Pope Francis in Vatican City today. The president looked thrilled and a little mischievous; the pope looked frustrated and bored; the first lady and Ivanka looked like they were attending a wake. Somewhere far, far outside of the frame, like in a different place entirely, was Sean Spicer looking dejected and upset that he’d missed the chance to meet the man his faith treats as God’s representative on Earth.
CNN has an enlightening dive into the internal dynamics of the president’s visit to the Vatican, which otherwise has mostly served as fodder for memes. Reporters Kevin Liptak and Jeff Zeleny noted that at his first meeting with the pontifex, Trump was flanked mostly by family, with the exceptions for the likes of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The takeaway, according to CNN, is that Trump values family and loyalty above traditional hierarchies. Most of the faces most publicly associated with the Trump administration—senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief-of-staff Reince Priebus—were left elsewhere.
But an especially glaring absence, an unnamed source told the network, was Sean Spicer, a Catholic who’d expressed interest in an audience with Francis. From CNN:
Ultimately, the formalities of West Wing titles mean less than family ties or longevity in Trump world. Spicer, for example, is an assistant to the President — the top-ranking title for White House aides — and Catholic, but was informed before the meeting there wasn’t room for him on the roster.
Spicer did not respond to a request for comment.
Asked about Spicer not being included in the group that met the Pope, a source close to the White House said: “Wow. That’s all he wanted,” adding it should “very much” be seen as a slight.