Rob Crilly: Sean Spicer's was a tragedy played out on television; his briefings attracted viewers who tuned in not just to find out what their President was doing, but to thrill and gawk at the press secretary
Now that Spicer has resigned, he has the support of many in the public who are rooting for him as an underdog, Crilly says
Editor’s Note: Rob Crilly is a British journalist living in New York. He was The Telegraph’s Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent and was previously the East Africa correspondent for The Times of London. The opinions in this article are those of the author.
It hasn’t been easy being Sean Spicer for the past six months. Called on to defend the indefensible from day one – remember those outlandish, inaccurate claims about the inauguration crowd numbers? – he has watched his credibility be reduced to rubble.
In return for his loyalty, he has been mocked on late night TV and publicly humiliated by a president who invited all sorts of hangers-on to meet the Pope but left his dedicated Irish Catholic spokesman to kill time elsewhere in Rome.
Now he is done. On Friday, he resigned when it emerged that Donald Trump was bringing in Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund manager, to take on the role of communications director –reportedly over Spicer’s strong opposition.
Enough was enough, even for Mr. Spicer. But what does a former presidential spokesman with a credibility problem do next? All is not lost. There is a path to salvation, if he is willing to take it.
It won’t be the usual road former press secretaries tread.
Any other presidential spokesman could expect an easy life after the White House, perhaps by providing a touch of celebrity to a Washington consulting firm, or cashing in with the cable news networks as a pundit, or scoring a hefty book advance.
But one suspects a different fate awaits this man, now best known for being portrayed on “Saturday Night Live” by Melissa McCarthy at a motorized podium, and for appearing to forget, live on air, that Hitler had gassed millions of Jews in the Holocaust.
Spicer likely will not reap the grace and favor posts with blue-chip companies keen to show off their connections. After chaining himself to an unpopular president, a sort of Western “Comical Ali” (Saddam Hussein’s minister of information who refused to accept his boss’s defeat) defending the untruths that emanated from above him, it is difficult to build a post-briefing-room career.
Spicer’s was a tragedy played out on television. His briefings attracted millions of viewers who tuned in not just to find out what their President was doing, but to thrill and gawk at how Spicey – as we all came to know him – twisted and turned in the media glare.
This was a president who seemed content to offer his spokesman as a sacrifice to the so-called “fake news” media, forcing Mr. Spicer to trash his own credibility to protect his boss.
Then the leaks began. We learned anonymously how President Trump is said to have disapproved of Spicer’s wardrobe and demanded that he smarten up his act, and that the President allegedly thought the fact that his “SNL” doppelganger was a woman made him look weak.
And all the while, Mr. Spicer continued to burn his relationships with journalists, fomenting feuds on air and threatening to have individuals thrown out of the briefing room.
Vanity Fair even ran a feature headlined “The Agony of Sean Spicer.”
And yet, now that he is untethered from his podium, Spicer still has a public that will pull for him as the underdog, who watched with morbid fascination as he soaked up the hits, who imagined how difficult it must be to operate as the public face of a dysfunctional administration, and who saw an odd warmth in Melissa McCarthy’s noisy portrayal.
Come on, Spicey, his public is now thinking. You have made the difficult decision to quit. You have learned the hard way that President Trump’s loyalty is a one-way street.
Now it is payback time.
There is a place in the nation’s heart waiting for you. All you have to do is tell us the inside story of this White House, its factions, its fighting and its failures.
You know the skinny and the gossip. You had a ringside seat as the Russia investigation closed in and the first family began lawyering up.
By now you know Steve Bannon’s favorite epithets and which Oval Office room is being used by Pepe the Frog.
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Come on Spicey, dish the dirt.
We – who watched you become the put-upon everyman of an administration built from billionaires, bankers and generals – are rooting for you.
Anyway, what else do you have to lose?