Less than two months ago, most of the United States and the rest of the free world breathed a sigh of relief when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced his resignation, signalling what many thought would be the end of his public life. This was not to be the case.
Spicer’s cameo appearance during the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Stephen Colbert, was controversial to say the least. His reference to his own falsified claim that President Trump’s inauguration crowd was “the largest ever” took nerve. Though initially received with surprise and laughter, many took to the internet quickly afterward to rightly condemn Colbert’s choice of guest.
The issue with Spicer’s appearance was not that he made light of serious lies and that his perpetuation of “alternative facts” allowed discriminatory and sometimes violent political groups to gain traction without any factual support for their beliefs. The real issue was that Spicer never really made amends for the damage he wrought.
Redeeming one’s public image usually seems to follow a certain process. First, you make your mistake. Second, you acknowledge your mistake. And third, you laugh about it at the Emmys. Spicer forgot about step two.
While his awkward personality and willingness to find humour in the situation are certainly endearing, it is nothing but a distraction from his lack of clear verbal remorse. In his interview with Jimmy Kimmel days before, you can see his regret. You can feel it and sense it, but you never hear it. Kimmel offered ample opportunities for Spicer to acknowledge his untruths, but Spicer unabashedly dodged the one question most viewers had on their minds: do you stand by President Trump’s lies?
It seems that Spicer’s regret is not so much for the repercussions of his work for the American people but primarily for himself and the abuse he endured from the press while at the podium. As far as Spicer is concerned, he is as much the victim as the uneducated voter who now believes The New York Times peddles fake news. The part of him that does recognize his mistake, if it exists, seems unable to acknowledge it publicly, both because it would be an unwise political move, but also because he lacks the integrity.
Compromising one’s beliefs to get ahead in the working world is not a unique position. This might have been excuse enough for Spicer’s lack of apology if he had remained under the radar and reaped no benefits from his work in disinformation. But that’s not what happened.
Many celebrities were quick to embrace the ‘new Sean,’ flooding social media with selfies with him. Likewise, Spicer was quick to embrace his newfound popularity, no doubt a refreshing change from his dismal reputation while working for Trump. Television deals, public speaking gigs, and consulting jobs are now all on the table for him. Barely a month ago, Spicer turned down an offer to be on the 25th season of Dancing with the Stars. One needs not advocate for his punishment to agree that this kind of treatment is undeserved.
The question we are left to ask are: where are the cheek kisses from James Corden for those of us who didn’t forget that Hitler also used chemical weapons? The speaking fees and consulting work for those who didn’t argue that we could “disagree on the facts?” The Harvard fellowships for the many of us who did not commit Spicer’s greatest crimes of enabling and furthering the uninformed, racist, and misogynistic will of Donald Trump? It sets a poor political precedent that someone can work to effectively ban Muslims and still be rewarded so kindly by society’s elites.
Sean Spicer’s words in the White House were neither as innocent as he now wants us to believe nor as guilty as an Instagram critique by Jason Isaacs that compared him to Nazi Joseph Goebbels makes them out to be. He is not President Trump, but he served as a willing mouthpiece who perpetuated lies for the Commander in Chief. He should be treated as such, or ignored, until he finds the strength to apologize, rather than be given Emmy cameos and celebrity companionship.