White House press secretary Sean Spicer has had a contentious relationship with the media since his first appearance on the podium when he delivered a five-minute rant about the press's refusal to accurately report the crowd size at President Trump's inaugural before leaving without taking any questions.
But, on Thursday, Spicer hit a new low — delivering a combative, angry and largely fact-free defense of his boss's allegation-without-evidence that then President Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.
“It's interesting to me that you know, just as a — as a point of interest that when — when one entity says one thing that — that proves, that claims one thing, you guys cover it ad nauseam,” Spicer said within the first 30 seconds of the news conference.
“You — crickets, from you guys, because at the end of the day, when — no, no, no, no, no, hold on, hold on,” Spicer said.
“No, no, no. okay. You also look over — you also tend to overlook all of the other sources, because I know you want to cherry pick it,” Spicer said.
The lowlight of Spicer's performance was a lengthy reading of press clips — largely from conservative columnist and pundits — that allegedly made the case for why Trump was right about the wiretapping. (They didn't make that case at all.) Here's a sample of that soliloquy:
Last on Fox News, on March 14, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement, quote, “Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn't use the NSA, he didn't use the CIA, he didn't use the FBI and he didn't use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ. What is that? It's the initials for the British intelligence finding agency. So, simply by having two people saying to them president needs transcripts of conversations involving candidate Trump's conversations, involving president-elect Trump, he's able to get it and there's no American fingerprints on this. Putting the published accounts and common-sense together, this leads to a lot.
That little riff got Spicer into a lot of trouble. The British government categorically denied that it was involved in any way, shape or form in the wiretapping of Trump Tower by the U.S. government. The British national security agency called the claim “utterly ridiculous” overnight Thursday and British media reported that the White House apologized for it.
Here's the thing: It's no secret why Spicer acted the way he did on Thursday. Trump wanted a very aggressive defense of his evidence-free charge that he had been wire tapped. He didn't like the way the coverage was going and he wanted his official advocate out there pushing back. The giveaway was the dossier of “news” stories that Spicer cited as “evidence” that Trump's claim wasn't totally off base. He did a bunch of research to put those clips together. He was determined to run through the laundry list of “evidence” on Thursday no matter what. And that's what he did.
As we've noted before, Spicer's target audience in these press briefings is one person: Donald John Trump. And Trump likely applauded Spicer's performance.
But, not only did Spicer cause an international incident that forced an overnight apology from our national security adviser to one of our most stalwart allies, but he also repeatedly stretched truths and connected dots where no dots should be connected from behind a lectern that makes him the main spokesman for the U.S. government.
That's a very bad look for America. Words matter. Facts matter. And if the spokesman for the president of the United States shows a cavalierness with words and facts, it sends a dangerous message to the country and the world.
That's exactly what happened on Thursday.