All the Greatest Hits From Sean Spicer’s Brief, Pathetic Stint as White House Press Secretary
For six sad months, Sean Spicer was the official mouthpiece of the Trump administration and a treasured source of comic relief to those who living under it. Today, the flustered little man behind the podium is out. He resigned unexpectedly as press secretary in what the Washington Post called an “abrupt and angry departure” after the president’s appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director, a man with whom Sean has had a decidedly spicy relationship in the past.
Though Spicer’s time as press secretary was short, he managed a stunning number of iconic moments both within the briefing room and without. In chronological order, we’ve collected a few of the highlights below.
Just four days after Spicer lied through his teeth about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd on his first day as press secretary, veteran White House reporter April Ryan asked him a question about race during a briefing. He answered by stating that his boss had recently met with one of the greatest figures in American history to discuss the topic the other day—never mind that said hero had been dead for almost half a century. The transcript:
RYAN: You’ve talked a long time yesterday on the issue of race and I wanted to ask you a couple of things. I’ve spoken to the current head of the NAACP who’s accusing this current administration of something called stereotyping by omission, saying that the president has met with athletes and entertainers, but yet has not met with civil rights leaders. And during his inauguration speech, he talked about inner cities, urban areas being riddled with gang violence and drugs. What is the agenda, what are you planning when it comes to…
SPICER: April, I mean just the other day, he sat down with Martin Luther King Jr…
(He thought he was talking about Martin Luther King III.)
The Facebook Live interview from hell
In February, Spicer gave an exclusive interview to Breitbart reporter Charlie Spiering via Facebook Live. Besides exhibiting an awkwardness that bordered on psychedelic, the video uniquely captured almost everything that is wrong with the media landscape today. Relive the magic below and feel your skin crawl all over again.
Among the bushes
After Trump axed FBI director James Comey in March, Spicer apparently unsure about how to address the unexpected and politically momentous firing to reporters. His brief hesitance provided us with what will surely be the enduring image of his career in D.C. From the Washington Post’s report:
After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.
“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We’ll take care of this…. Can you just turn that light off?”
Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him. For 10 minutes, he responded to a flurry of questions, vacillating between light-hearted asides and clear frustration with getting the same questions over and over again.
As Andrew Beaujon of the Washingtonian noted on Twitter, the Post ultimately amended its account of the incident, issuing what is perhaps the greatest editor’s note of recent history.
Sean Spicer goes shopping at the Apple Store
Just two days later, Spicer was shopping at an Apple Store in the D.C. area when he was confronted with a woman who did not like him very much at all. Too bad there weren’t any bushes inside.
The Holocaust could have been worse
In an April briefing following a U.S. bombing of an airfield in Syria, Spicer held forth about world history in an attempt to describe his boss’s motivations for the strike. Though no reporter asked a question that nudged him in this particular direction, he began talking about Hitler, arguing that, compared to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the guy could have been worse. From the Washington Post’s account of the exchange:
Spicer brought up Hitler unprompted during Tuesday’s White House briefing while emphasizing how seriously the United States takes Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. “So you have to if you’re Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.”
Of course, Hitler in fact used chemical weapons against very many people, namely the millions of Jews he ordered executed during the Holocaust, as anyone with a middle-school history education knows. When given a chance to elaborate on his comments, Spicer insinuated that Hitler’s use of “Holocaust centers” was somehow morally superior to Assad’s use of sarin gas in the open air.
“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said, mispronouncing Assad’s name. “I mean, there was clearly, I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. What I am saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought — so the use of it. And I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent.”
Spicer doesn’t get to meet the Pope
A compelling side-plot to Spicer’s utter incompetence in his role was the near-constant owning he received from his colleagues and superiors. The most painful example of this was his exclusion from the president’s audience with Pope Francis, a man whom Spicer, as a devoted Catholic, was extremely excited to meet. CNN reported at the time:
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.