Following his surprise performance at the Emmys on Sunday, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he “absolutely” regrets his infamous assertion in January that the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration was the largest there had ever been.
“Of course I do, absolutely,” Spicer told the New York Times on Monday.
Spicer’s demonstrably false claim, which he delivered during his first statement to the media, came with a lecture for journalists who he said were intentionally misrepresenting the crowd size to show that Obama’s inauguration drew more people.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” he said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” he added, taking no questions from reporters after reading the five-minute statement.
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave Spicer four pinocchios, describing the moment as "an appalling performance by the new press secretary."
Spicer’s falsehood-riddled rebuke of the media set the tone for his six-month tenure as press secretary. Other officials in the Trump administration have also seen their reputations come under fire for providing false or misleading information.
Spicer would repeatedly clash with journalists until he resigned after President Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci as communications director in July.
Now, Spicer is trying to repair his image.
Before he became one of the most well-known figures in the Trump administration — and one of late-night television’s favorite targets — Spicer enjoyed a good relationship with the media as the longest-serving communications director for the Republican National Committee. Following his resignation, he has made the rounds on the speaking and television circuit in an apparent effort to earn that back.
During an appearance last week on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” late-night show, he basically admitted that he lied for the president, saying it was his job to say whatever Trump told him to say.
“Look, your job as press secretary is to represent the president’s voice and to make sure that you are articulating what he believes, [what] his vision is on policy, on issues and on other areas that he wants to articulate,” said Spicer, who will join the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics as a visiting fellow for the new academic year. “Whether or not you agree or not isn’t your job.”
But his interview on Monday was the first time Spicer admitted that he regretted his memorable briefing-room debut.
Spicer also told the New York Times that he hopes the president was not offended by his skit at the Emmys, in which Spicer joined host Stephen Colbert on stage on a rolling podium. “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world!” Spicer announced, over the cheers of the Emmy attendees.
Asked if he was throwing Trump under the bus, Spicer told The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr that the surprise onstage appearance “was an attempt for me to poke a little fun at myself and bring some levity to the situation.”
The performance was met with a grin from Melissa McCarthy, who impersonated Spicer on “Saturday Night Live,” a gasp from “Veep” star Anna Chlumsky and a laugh from Kevin Spacey of “House of Cards.”
But many critics on Twitter were less pleased than those in Hollywood.
“Seeing Sean Spicer at the #Emmys trying to renew himself after him offering his services to a bigoted, sexist, racist agenda is insulting,” singer Ricky Davila tweeted.
Many viewed his appearance as an attempt to “normalize” a public figure who repeatedly and largely unrepentantly lied on behalf of Trump.
Shame on the Emmys for the Spicer validation. He is dedicated to demeaning our craft and restricting our freedoms of speech. #Unforgivable
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) September 18, 2017
And others pointed out that two months ago, Spicer told Fox New’s Sean Hannity that he had “no regrets.”
On Kimmel’s show on Wednesday, Spicer made a joke when Kimmel asked whether crowd size was what Spicer had wanted to talk about.
“If it was up to me, I would have probably worn a different suit,” he said.