For four months, press secretary Sean Spicer's briefings have delivered a little bit more than the news. They've showcased President Trump's unique take on the news of the day, as well as “alternative facts” and statements that have exasperated critics.
As Trump grows angrier at how his administration is being portrayed by the media and is reportedly frustrated with Spicer, he has threatened to “cancel all future press briefings.” This possibility leaves the nation with a complicated question: Would we miss Spicer?
In the past four months, the routine White House news briefing has become deeply embedded in American popular culture — as fuel for comedy sketches, late-night comics, innumerable jokes on social media and, yes, newspaper articles.
When was the last time someone parodied a Senate Judiciary subcommittee meeting? Have you seen #AriFleischerSays trending on Twitter recently?
It's impossible to eulogize something that isn't gone, but the Trump administration's news briefings have generated moments that have dominated the national conversation and merit acknowledgment:
Spicer hadn't fully unpacked his office Jan. 21 when the newly appointed press secretary made his first statement to the media.
The president was rankled that the media had tried to “minimize the enormous support that had gathered” for the inauguration, Spicer said, and he wanted to set things straight, The Washington Post reported.
He lectured the journalists about ground coverings that made it seem as if fewer people had attended and asserted that “no one had numbers” on attendance. Well, almost no one. He spouted off a few ridership totals from the D.C. Metro, which he said proved that more people had come to see Trump in 2017 than had come to see President Barack Obama in 2009.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe. Even the New York Times printed a photograph showing a misrepresentation of the crowd in the original tweet in their paper, which showed the full extent of the support, depth in crowd, and intensity that existed.
“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”
Post reporting showed that Spicer's numbers were off. Metro ridership for Trump's inauguration was down compared with Obama's first inauguration.
The media hammered the Trump administration about Spicer's ridership numbers. Why would he present bogus facts that could be easily disproved?
How nice would it be, Americans asked, if we were also allowed to have alternative facts?
— Jamie Todd Foreman (@Jamie_Foreman) January 22, 2017
Without Sean Spicer, there would be no Melissa McCarthy impersonation of Sean Spicer.
As The Post's Avi Selk reported, “McCarthy has been portraying an angry, shouty, prop-chucking Spicer on 'SNL' since the second week of the Trump presidency — a parody of Spicer’s first news conference, at which he actually yelled at reporters about an inaccurate tweet.”
“SNL” brought back the fan favorite Saturday night, with McCarthy portraying an angst-ridden Spicer whose anger is replaced with worry that Trump has been lying to him. The sketch involves Russian nesting dolls, a motoriz ed podium and a dramatic kiss.
It was mid-April — the middle of Passover, actually — and Spicer was talking about how serious the United States is about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons.
He told reporters that “someone as despicable as Hitler … didn't even sink to using chemical weapons.”
But he was wrong, and his oversight about Hitler's use of gas chambers to kill Jews and other 'undesirables' did not go over well.
He later appeared on CNN to apologize:
“Frankly, I mistakenly made an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocau st, for which there is no comparison. And for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
The Muslim ban
One of Trump's first big initiatives was an executive order that banned travelers from several Muslim-majority countries.
It sparked outrage and worry across the nation and overseas. But in the press room, Spicer was debating the definition of the word “ban.”
“The president talked about extreme vetting and the need to keep America safe, and he made clear this is not a Muslim ban,” he said. “And it’s not a travel ban. It’s a vetting system to keep America safe. That’s it, plain and simple. And all of the facts and the reading of it clearly show that that’s what it is.”
It apparently wasn't so clear.
During 16 agonizing minutes of arguing, the press corps pushed back — and Spicer accused the journalists of inaccurate reporting.
At times, he talked over them, demanding, “Can I answer the question?”
The upside-down lapel pin
Less than a month into the job, word leaked that Trump wasn't particularly happy with the job Spicer was doing. It was clear that Spicer was under pressure.
And one 15-second exchange made the world wonder whether Spicer was sending out a subtle cry for help. He came to the briefing with his flag lapel turned upside down.
According to the U.S. code, an upside-down flag is a “signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
After 15 seconds of banter with reporters, the pin was righted, but, as The Post's Lindsey Bever reported, “the Internet lost its mind.”
So, the Internet asked, tongue planted firmly in cheek, is this a cry for help, Sean?
Others opined that there was some connection to Frank Underwood, the calculating protagonist of the Netflix political drama “House of Cards.”
Your loyalty has not gone unnoticed. https://t.co/ba1kz1yvXF
— House of Cards (@HouseofCards) March 10, 2017