It was announced today on Good Morning America that Sean Spicer – the former White House press secretary forced out due to incompetence in an administration that’s made incompetence a hallmark – would be among the contestants on the new season of “Dancing with the Stars”. This appears to be the latest effort to rehabilitate the image of a man who is making a pitch for grace and nuance on his legacy, but showed no such grace or nuance for his fellow citizens or the journalists in front of whom he stood, while supposedly in service to the American people.
Donald Trump has occupied the Oval Office for 943 days, and as hard as it may be to sift back through the mountain of scandals that have plagued our government since his arrival, try to go back to no more than 24 hours after his inauguration. A newly-appointed Sean Spicer blatantly lied to the press about – of all things – the crowd attendance at Trump’s inauguration. Spin is nothing new to politics, but this was an unprecedented level of bulls*** being peddled, even while the stands at the inauguration site had yet to be dissembled. This was the chief spokesperson of the US government standing behind the presidential seal and, without a hint of shame, telling the American people and the world that our own eyeballs were lying to us.
That was only an opening salvo for what was to come. Spicer lied about a “dramatic expansion” of the federal workforce under Obama. He then stated, falsely, that Trump’s National Security Council memo was “identical in language” to those produced by the Bush and Obama administrations. Next he claimed that that the Pew Institute released a study showing that 14 percent – one in seven – of people who voted were non-citizens. These blatant lies were all told in the first ten days of his tenure.
Any White House press secretary worth their salt is able to inform the public ethically while advancing the president’s agenda. Even a small ethical breach – let alone one that’s intentional – is a betrayal of the public’s trust. For this reason, the role is sometimes insulated (albeit not without controversy) from particular details of national security for the benefit of the public’s safety. Spicer was not just the primary spokesperson for the Trump White House – he was the second most visible official in government, not just to our country, but the rest of the world.
In this position of enormous and critical responsibility – in which the global market can hinge on particular phrasing, in which White House statements can be used to obliquely justify cruelty by tyrants, in which so seemingly trivial as vocal tone can affect the livelihoods of countless millions of people, in which the health of the democratic process relies on a good faith discourse – Spicer actively promoted Trump’s hateful, dangerous agenda.
Spicer lied about there being no significant tension between Trump and the intelligence community working to protect our country, essentially dismissing concerns from intelligence officials over the interference of the Russian government in our electoral process and the possibility of Trump’s role in assisting a foreign power to do so. He claimed that Trump was only attempting to ban citizens of certain countries from entering the United States, despite Trump’s repeatedly pledging to ban Muslims as a whole from travelling to our country.
As a way of slamming Obama’s national security credibility, Spicer claimed that most of the detainees released or transferred from custody at Guantanamo Bay during the Bush administration were done so by court order. In reality, it was less than a dozen out of 532, a fact embarrassingly verified by a legal advisor in Bush’s National Security Council.
And yet, even issues of national security and civil liberties and xenophobia aside, Spicer’s incompetence and callousness sabotaged any bit of goodwill he may have had with journalists and the public. There was the time he bizarrely and insultingly claimed Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons”.
There was the moment he lectured April Ryan, a widely-respected journalist in the White House Press Corps, to “stop shaking your head”, as though talking to a child in response to her question regarding insulting comments Trump made about Condoleezza Rice in 2006. There were the mispronunciations and sloppiness that would better characterize a mediocre middle school history teacher nearing an early retirement than the ideal face and voice of the American people.
The most generous observer could not look back on the tenure of Spicer and walk away with anything other than a resolute conclusion of incompetence and, at best, moral ambiguity. So, when he sat with his fellow contestants on the set of Good Morning America and host Tom Bergeron joked about placing him “in charge of assessing audience size”, it encapsulated what’s currently wrong with our country’s sense of accountability.
Spicer perpetrated massive fraud against Americans and propped up a white supremacist in the Oval Office. He should be on a permanent public blacklist, not in a televised waltz.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies