Bumbling, condescending, and the topic of many a Saturday Night Live sketch, Sean Spicer was in some ways the press secretary the Trump administration deserved. And he’ll soon be gone.
Citing “a person with direct knowledge of the exchange,” the Times said that Spicer quit over his outrage that President Donald Trump had appointed a longtime loyalist, New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, as his new communications director, a post senior to Spicer’s. This “person with direct knowledge of the exchange” claimed that Trump asked Spicer to stay on, to no avail.
Spicer’s embattled tenure as White House press secretary began with him going apeshit on reporters after they correctly pointed out the underwhelming size of Inauguration Day crowds. It continued with such scrapbook-able moments as when he memorably said Hitler had not gassed his own people, snapped at a female African-American reporter to “stop shaking your head,” and quoted a Fox News contributor’s unfounded suggestion that President Barack Obama had enlisted British intelligence to spy on candidate Trump.
Spicer allowed reporters outside of Washington to Skype in with their own questions—which drew some attention away from a mounting list of White House screw-ups—and more frequently called on Trump-friendly news outlets. Nevertheless, the daily briefings became made-for-TV spectacles as an overflowing room of correspondents picked apart Spicer’s transparent spin and outright lies. The news conferences have more recently been taken off-camera t0 reduce meme-able moments, of which there were plenty.
Read between the lines of news coverage in Washington, and Spicer is seen by many reporters as a reasonable guy just trying to do his job—part of the permanent political class. Yet his fate as press secretary under a TV-obsessed president has been the topic of speculation for months, as Mark Leibovich laid out in a Times magazine story this month:
To be caught trumpeting your own fame and impact is a cardinal sin in Trump’s White House, where attention is zero-sum, and Trump is not one for sharing. By early June, Spicer had apparently taken a few turns in the revolving doghouse of this administration. You lose track of who is supposedly on the outs in any given week — Reince Priebus? Steve Bannon? Kellyanne Conway? Press reports have dutifully described Trump’s efforts to humiliate him (denying Spicer, a Catholic, an audience with the pope while at the Vatican) and listing his possible replacements at the lectern (Laura Ingraham being the evergreen mention). All of this had, perversely, compounded Spicer’s ‘‘current status’’ even more by making him a strange object of fascination in the capital: Washington loves a death watch, and Spicer has been seen as a dead man talking for months — and yet he kept showing up and taking it.
Spicer will talk no more—unless a cable channel snaps him up—yet he’ll no doubt remain as a lasting image of the Trump administration’s free-associative form of governance. You may be replaced behind the White House lectern, Sean, but no one will ever be able to take away what we had together.