Should You Feel Bad for Sean Spicer?
He may be doing Trump’s dirty work now, but the press secretary wasn’t always a joke.
By Madeleine Ngo, University of Florida
Sean Spicer, the current press secretary and communications director of the United States under Trump’s administration, has recently been making headlines.
The former communications director of the Republican Party has been under fire by numerous media outlets for his controversial handling of daily press-conference briefings. Spicer, with his mild obsession with Dippin’ Dots, is known for being slightly off. Last Friday, he barred the “New York Times,” “Politico,” “CNN” and various other news publications from his off-camera press briefing. Many saw this as an attack against the freedom of speech, initiated by Trump’s administration.
If you keep up with current events, you have undoubtedly heard of Trump’s “fake news” claims. Although at first, it was simply angry tweets lashing out against the media for being the “enemy of the people,” Trump’s administration took blatant steps toward violating the First Amendment by using bias to determine which publications were allowed in the press briefing.
Though most of the spotlight is set on President Trump, people often forget about Sean Spicer and the historical significance of his role in the White House. As the press secretary, the senior White House official acts as a liaison between the president’s administration and media outlets. He is expected to be informed of the president’s current policies and able to answer questions regarding the actions of the administration.
Spicer wasn’t Trump’s first pick. The president preferred a woman to fill the role of Press Secretary, but he ended up settling for Spicer, who is a graduate of Connecticut College, who majored in Government before pursuing a Master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.
Upon graduation, he worked for numerous campaigns for various Republican candidates. Spicer later joined the United States Naval Reserve in 1999 as a public affairs officer, and in 2011, he was officially named the Communications Director of the Republican National Committee, later assuming the role of the RNC chief strategist in 2015.
While there are numerous faults with Spicer’s handling of the press, it is undoubtedly difficult to act as a liaison between the media and a president who believes the media shouldn’t exist, unless they’re affiliated with Fox News in some form. Though Spicer should be cut some slack, it’s unjust to perpetuate the “fake news” stigma merely because Trump doesn’t like to hear certain media report facts.
Even in his first press briefing, Spicer attacked the validity of the media after images surfaced of the lack of attendance at Trump’s inauguration in January. Rather than focusing on future legislation and policies, the administration considered it a priority to criticize the media for its coverage of the inaugural attendance. Spicer hastily claimed that the media underestimated the size of the crowd and falsely stated that Trump’s inauguration was the “most watched ever,” which was later proven to be incorrect.
As Press Secretary, Spicer should step forward and be honest with the public rather than romanticize the truth to make Trump’s actions appear more justifiable. Rather than twisting the facts and simply saying whatever Trump instructs of him, he has an innate responsibility to be honest with America and the media.
As the press secretary, Spicer should be cooperating with media outlets and newspaper publications, not shutting them out simply because the Trump administration claims they’re “biased reporting.” By constantly shouting “fake news,” the administration is endorsing more conservative outlets, rather than letting the American people decide what newspapers or publications they should trust.
Though Spicer comes off as rather passive, he criticized Trump during the election season for his unfair representation of Mexican immigrants. Before joining the administration, Spicer disagreed with Trump’s depiction of immigrants as “rapists” and “drug-dealers” in an effort to increase approval for strengthened border protocols.
In an interview with “CNN,” Spicer said, “I mean, as far as painting Mexican Americans with that kind of a brush, I think that’s probably something that is not helpful to the cause.” Now as a White House official, though, Spicer seemingly supports and defends the majority of Trump’s actions without question.
During a segment of “Conan,” CNN’s chief Washington correspondent and “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper recalled how numerous journalists, including himself, knew Spicer before his stint as press secretary. After Conan O’Brien questioned his relationship with Spicer, Tapper said, “I had a very good relationship with him. A lot of people I know within journalism did. I think a lot of us don’t necessarily recognize the guy that we see on the podium now.”
Perhaps Spicer is a living example of the effects of working under the administration, or maybe he has adapted his own viewpoints to align more with Trump’s current policies. Although he seems like the underdog, his role is one with enormous responsibility and respect. Whether or not he decides to take the reins himself is something America can only wait to watch.