‘Spicey Out!’ 9 Highlights From Sean Spicer’s Combative Tenure
White House press secretary Sean Spicer spoke during a news briefing in June.
From his first official briefing, it was clear that Sean Spicer was going to be a different kind of White House press secretary.
Rather than trying to build a rapport with journalists — as his predecessors working for presidents from both parties had done — Spicer came out swinging, setting the tone for an administration that has frequently seemed to be at war with the media.
It’s been a tumultuous tenure, with Spicer seemingly barricaded at the lectern firing salvos at the press corps. The dialectic was so tense that it inspired a recurring parody on Saturday Night Live.
Here are some memorable moments of Spicer’s six-month tenure:
1. Day 2 — "The largest audience to ever witness an inauguration"
"Yesterday, at a time when our nation and the world was watching the peaceful transition of power … some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting," Spicer said, angrily reading from his notes.
He boasted, "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe."
He went on to say that photographs of the inauguration had been "framed" to "minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall."
2. Alternative facts
Spicer didn’t coin the phrase "alternative facts." That was Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway.
But Spicer gave us this Orwellian moment involving "facts."
"I believe that we have to be honest with the American people," Spicer said, "but I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts."
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "fact" as: "A thing that is known or proved to be true."
So, no, you can’t disagree with them.
3. When a spokesman doesn’t speak for a president
There were statements that would seem otherworldly — coming out of any other White House.
"I think the president’s tweets speak for themselves," became a common Spicer refrain every time the president tweeted something controversial.
4. Tongue-tied: From Martin Luther King Jr. to Hitler
Spicer had the occasional outright gaffe.
He insisted, for example, that President Trump had "sat down with Martin Luther King Jr."
He meant to say he had met with Martin Luther King III, the slain civil rights leader’s eldest son.
Spicer stated confidently (and incorrectly) that even Hitler (unlike Syrian President Bashar Assad) did not "sink to using chemical weapons."
Responding to a reporter, who questioned Spicer on that point, the president’s press secretary clarified:
"I understand your point. Thank you. I appreciate that. He brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that. I was saying in the way that Assad used them where he went into town, dropped them into the middle of town. I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent."
Holocaust centers? Whoops.
As polls showed that a majority of Americans wanted the president to release his tax returns, Spicer let fly what sounded like a Freudian slip: "I think there’s a huge appetite for tax return," he said, quickly recovering with the words "tax reform."
5. Russian salad dressing that led to that head-shake comment
There were analogies gone wrong. In March, he showed exasperation with the media’s seeming obsession with the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.
"If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight," he said, "somehow that’s a Russian connection."
The question was from reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. She wasn’t buying it, which didn’t sit well with Spicer.
"You’re shaking your head," he said. "I appreciate it. But, but …"
That didn’t go down well. The backlash was swift. The next day, Spicer tried to make it up to Ryan giving her the first question at the briefing and beginning with this oh-so-sweet opening.
"April," Spicer began.
"Why, thank you, Sean," Ryan responded.
"How are you today?"
"I’m fine, and how are you?"
6. When a ban is not a ban or is it?
Spicer also showed some confusion about his boss’s evolving positions, especially on that travel ban.
"It’s not a ban," Spicer thundered. "It’s not a Muslim ban."
The "extreme vetting" measure the administration put in place that restricts travel from six Muslim-majority countries has been hung up in the courts.
For all the confrontation — and there was lots of it — there were moments of mirth.
After Trump sent out a bizarre late-night tweet that trailed off with the nonsense word "covfefe," Spicer, in an audio-only briefing, insisted that it was all part of the plan.
Asked by a reporter whether people should be concerned that the president "posted something of an incoherent tweet last night that stayed up for hours," Spicer replied simply, "No," insisting, to laughter from the press corps, that "the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant."
8. A little help from Gronk
In April, the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski popped his head into the press briefing room while Spicer was fielding questions.
"Hey, Sean. Need some help?" the tight end asked. "I think I got this, but thank you," Spicer replied.
"That was cool," he added.
9. Leaning into SNL
Finally, there was a bit of self-deprecating humor as the press secretary answered what he deemed a "silly" question from a reporter.
Referring to Melissa McCarthy’s SNL parody, Spicer joked, "Don’t make me make the podium move."
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