Sean Spicer: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

By Zachary Blevins

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has held the Brady Press Briefing Room ever since President Trump took office on Saturday. The 30th Press Secretary, Spicer will be one of the most publicly known individuals in the Trump administration, apart from Trump himself of course, due to the nature of his work.  Spicer is in a precarious position to be the public spokesperson to a vast array of media, an entity that has come under attack by the new administration in its first few days and in the time leading up to the inauguration. In looking at Spicer’s ability to fulfill the traditional expectations of this role, here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer:

The Good

  • His credentials and experience prior to this role are fitting. Spicer served as Communications Director for the Republican National Committee from 2011 to 2017, allowing him to understand and craft most of the messaging coming from the party. These skills will transfer well for conveying the message of the Trump administration. With that, Spicer is familiar with Trump’s style and philosophy, since he would have worked with Trump’s campaign during the general election.
  • Thus far, Spicer has continued to use the Brady Press Briefing Room, which I applaud. Even if access for the press isn’t significant, the presence of the press is a powerful symbol of accountability for the executive branch. While there has been discussion about moving the press corps to a different location, I hope the Trump administration realizes that there is little to gain from that and the Brady Press Briefing Room will continue to be used.

The Bad

  • For his first conference, I would have expected Spicer to cover some of President Trump’s major policy areas that he planned to work on in his first few days in office. Nope. Instead, it became an attack on the media for their coverage of the inauguration attendance. Spicer contradicted himself by saying that “no one had numbers” about the number of people in attendance, yet was he was able to able to declare that this was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” Something doesn’t check out there.
  • Spicer also attacked the media outlets that showed the picture of the unfilled National Mall at Trump’s inauguration, usually in contrast to a similar picture from President Obama’s inauguration. The issue with this is that Spicer calling out the use of that photo allowed media outlets to show that same photo even more when covering the press conference. I sat in the Atlanta airport seeing the same photo for the second day in a row, when the story of crowd sizes would have been over after Jan. 20 if Spicer had just kept his mouth shut. Communications-wise, this wasn’t a wise move, in my opinion.
  • Spicer didn’t take any questions. If the Trump administration wants more honest coverage, allowing the press to asks questions allows them to clarify facts and have a more accurate story to report. By denying the press the ability to ask questions, Spicer is perpetuating Trump’s disapproval of the media.

The Ugly

  • Alternative facts,” as Kellyanne Conway put it, is extremely troubling. For an administration that is so aggressive about holding media accountable to what they report, the notion that Spicer provided “alternative facts” about the attendance rate for the inauguration is contradictory. “Alternative facts” is like saying that Beyonce is going to be given the Heisman Trophy; I don’t care where you are getting your facts, I just know that to be false. The disregard for factual information in the infancy of this administration is a blow to Spicer’s credibility and won’t help the relationship between the media and Trump. “Because if you lose the respect and trust of the press corps, you got nothing.” – Sean Spicer

One thing is for sure, as Ben Holmes put it on Twitter, Josh Lyman has no longer given the worst White House Press Briefing.

3 thoughts on “Sean Spicer: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. I think Mr. Spencer meant to say it was the largest audience ever when you include the worldwide viewership over all the different sources… a misplaced modifier in his statement easily excusable as he was probably a bit nervous over his first press briefing … especially when you consider the subject matter and the combative tone he tried to strike. This “alternative facts” thing – is why statistics and “numbers” are used when trying to support perspectives at either end of the political ideological spectrum. You can often serve both ends with different sets of factual numbers. The point is, it’s time to stop splitting hairs and work on stuff that matters. And NO, I did not vote for the man.

  2. I agree that it’s important to work on stuff that matters, which is why Spicer’s choice to cover inauguration attendance primarily in his first press briefing as Press Secretary deserves to be identified, analyzed, and critiqued, because there is a host of real issues that could have been discussed but weren’t (Obamacare, SCOTUS appointee, Cabinet confirmations – to just name a few).

    As for the misplaced modifier, it was a prepared statement; that wording was chosen intentionally. Yes, people make mistakes, but that statement would have been reviewed several times by a multitude of people. The distinction of “both in person and around the globe” negates any doubt in my mind. Also, the discussion was surrounding the photo of the National Mall, so TV viewership is irrelevant.

    “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.” Attempts to bolster enthusiasm are shameful and wrong as well, and that’s why it’s important to keep this press briefing in check. And, if the press briefings continue in the manner that the first one was, I think that critique should be more than welcome.

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