There’s little shock in how the Emmys turned into another Trump-bashing festival. Yawn.
What is surprising is how media and political insiders are absolutely pummeling Sean Spicer for a joking bit that lasted less than a minute.
In case you missed it, Spicer wheeled out a White House podium and declared that “this will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the world.”
Journalists and other critics immediately tarred and feathered Spicer for being willing to laugh at himself. He was being “normalized,” they cried, and this would not do. A Twitter mob savaged him.
Spicer was mocking his first full day in office, when he scolded the press after the president sent him out to dispute stories that his inaugural crowd was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.
“It’s a very simple thing,” Spicer told me last night after returning from Los Angeles. “It was a funny skit, it poked fun at me, and that’s it. There’s no deeper, esoteric meaning like I’ve heard from the pundits.”
The former spokesman said he was not conceding some moral failing in telling the New York Times that he had regrets about disputing the size of Trump’s inaugural crowd to reporters on Jan. 21. “I look at every event, good or bad, and say what could I have done better? I should have prepared more. There are certain facts I should have double-checked.”
As for the post-Emmy attacks, Spicer told me: “There are a lot of people, no matter what you do or say, who are going to be haters. That’s their right. It’s a free country.”
What happened on that day was hardly Spicer’s finest hour. And he was overly harsh in ripping the press.
But for that and the rest of his tenure, many pundits want him to wear a scarlet letter forever and not show his face in public.
“Don’t Make This Guy a Folk Hero,” said the Daily Beast. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie tweeted, “The degree to which Sean Spicer has faced no consequences is a glimpse into the post-Trump future.” CNN’s Chris Cillizza said Spicer had been “willfully subverting the facts” and the Emmys cameo was “a validation that purposely misleading on the taxpayer's dime is a-OK.” Actor Zach Braff declared him “evil.”
A journalism professor named Seth Abramson wrote: “When U.S. history records the crimes of this administration—and the names of its enablers—Sean Spicer on the Emmys will be a VERY bad look.”
So here’s the thing: It’s fine to criticize Spicer’s tenure as Trump’s spokesman. He obviously made some mistakes. He also attracted a sizable daytime audience by driving the president’s message.
The notion that he was a paid liar who should be shunned by polite society reflects a stunning double standard. Virtually every White House press secretary in recent decades has at times misled the press, in some cases through untruths and in others through omission, at the behest of the boss.
To single out Spicer suggests to me a fury at Trump that clouds good judgment, and an attempt at payback by some journalists he tangled with or alienated.
Spicer told a joke about crowd size, not war and peace, on an awards show. Have his detractors lost any semblance of a sense of humor?
Virtually every Hollywood awards show now routinely beats up on the president because that’s deemed the cool thing to do. If Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin want to call the president “a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot,” I’m sure it pleased their liberal friends.
And there was no doubt that Stephen Colbert would go there, since slamming Trump helped him take the “Late Show” from last to first place and that’s become his calling card. The Emmy folks knew what they were getting. It was Colbert who thought up the Spicer bit.
Many of Barack Obama’s top aides quickly became media commentators. Are the denizens of the media and social media world now arguing that any ex-Trump aide must be banished from the public square?