With his controversial stint as White House press secretary in the rear-view mirror, Sean Spicer is on an informal re-branding tour – trying to show that the Melissa McCarthy impersonation of him isn’t really who he is.
It’s, um, not going so well.
The latest hiccup came this morning when Axios’ Mike Allen reported on a very odd text exchange with Spicer.
Allen was seeking confirmation of the fact that Spicer kept rigorous notes of his time at the Republican National Committee, the Trump transition and in the White House.
“Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore,” Spicer responded. Allen shot back a question mark, to which Spicer texted: “Not sure what that means. From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities.”
Er, I’m no lawyer (sorry Mom!) but a reporter asking someone to confirm or deny a tidbit of information is not illegal as far as I can tell. I suppose it’s possible that Allen had sent Spicer hundreds of texts seeking the answer to that same question but neither Allen’s nor Spicer’s texts make any mention of that sort of volume of communication. The “appropriate authorities” in this case appear to be no authorities at all. And Spicer appears to be making Mount Kilimanjaro out of a molehill.
And when Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple pinged Allen to ask if he had been blasting Spicer with emails and texts to prompt Spicer’s response, Allen said: “Before this exchange, I had texted Sean 4 times in 35 days, the first of which was in response to his: ‘Are you available to talk.’”
That’s far from the only thing that’s gone wrong for Spicer this week.
In an interview with ABC News released Thursday morning, Spicer was asked bluntly whether he had ever knowingly lied while behind the podium.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I have not knowingly done anything to … do that, no.”
Well, I’m convinced!
Obviously the answer to that question – assuming you, you know, haven’t knowingly lied from behind the podium – is “no.” And if you want to get really wordy: “Absolutely not.”
The answer Spicer gave – an equivocation about the truth – feels like the sort of CYA stuff you do when you know it’s possible that something could come out that makes clear you did, in fact, knowingly lie.
Think about it this way. Your significant other asks you directly: “Have you cheated on me?” And you respond: “I don’t think so. I have not knowingly done anything to … do that, no.”
How long do you think that person is going to be your significant other?
“They won’t touch him,” a media industry executive familiar with chatter around Spicer told NBC’s Claire Atkinson. “The news organizations might use him on roundtables, but (a contributor gig) is not happening.”
And Spicer’s week began on Sunday night with a surprise cameo at the Emmys in which he rolled out a podium to declare “this will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period – both in person and around the world.” It was an attempt to poke fun at his widely-mocked (and false) assertion back in January that Trump’s inauguration had been the most-watched in history.
That appearance was panned – at least by me – because the “joke” appeared to be that Spicer had purposely not told the truth as press secretary. See, he was lying the whole time! And he knew it! HA HA!
Look. Sean Spicer is going to do just fine. He’s likely to get a nice sinecure in some lobbying shop in Washington. All of this attention – even the negative kind – will likely bump up his speaking fees.
But actions have consequences. And after a stint like the one Spicer served at the White House, it’s not so easy to just re-emerge as the smiley, funny guy. Not enough time has passed just yet.