Sean Spicer is looking like yet another casualty of the Donald Trump administration. At least some journalists like him; one described him as “affable and quick-witted” and said he was “always happy to dish with reporters off the record.” He seems to have liked his job as a Republican flak and been reasonably good at it.
Then he made the horrible mistake of signing on with Donald Trump, and his reputation has taken a steep nosedive ever since. Things started to go sour for Spicer the day after the inauguration when Trump gave him orders to “persuade” people that the inauguration was the biggest ever – despite evidence to the contrary. That led to Kellyanne Conway’s notorious attempt to defend the lie as “alternative facts.”
“Saturday Night Live” has had a field day with Spider. Melissa McCarthy, who plays Spicer on SNL, has depicted him doing things like hiding in bushes and getting groped by Alec Baldwin’s Trump. Washington insiders, meanwhile, have been speculating when Spicer will be forced out.
Some argue that it doesn’t matter, since he has already lost all credibility. In an article for “The Washington Post,” Margaret Sullivan points out that the press secretary’s job is to provide journalists with official statements from the President or other senior personnel. The press secretary tells reporters what the President thinks about X or intends to do about Y.
The system only works, however, if the President tells the truth and doesn’t constantly change their story or position. Trump is a known liar with a mercurial personality, and both those facts make it very hard for any White House official to give a reliable statement on the man. Spicer has issued statements purportedly from Trump that Trump himself later contradicted. On May 12, Trump announced, “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” That admission that Spicer didn’t know what the President was doing bodes ill for the press secretary.
Spicer’s lack of knowledge is painfully clear. When he issues press briefings, they typically include some variation of “The President’s position has been very clear,” or “It’s been made very clear.”
In her article, Sullivan points out that some reporters figured out back in January that they couldn’t take Spicer’s statements at face value, and that they would have to do some digging for more trustworthy sources. That’s not supposed to happen.
Spicer is hardly the first or only casualty of Trump’s treachery. Trump businesses filed for bankruptcy six times over the years. While Trump himself was unaffected, other people – investors, workers and lenders – took major hits. During Trump’s campaign, a video of a 2005 conversation between him and the TV host Billy Bush surfaced. The video showed Trump boasting about his sexual prowess and his ability to get away with assaulting women. Trump was later elected President while Bush got sacked.
Within Trump’s administration, far too many people have learned that working for Trump is a thankless task. Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, faces legal trouble. James Comey of the FBI didn’t even know he’d been sacked until he saw it announced on the TV news. Conway’s attempts to defend Trump only resulted in her being made to look like an idiot and soon pushed to the side.
Trump’s lackeys have been discovering that they have a short shelf life, and that Trump will keep them around for only so long as they are useful. When they stop being useful, Trump unceremoniously and unhesitatingly shows them the door.