As White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to clarify his statement comparing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Adolf Hitler during a news briefing on Tuesday it was clear that he was only adding to the heap of criticism he was about to get. Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker was listening to him speak in the briefing room. Little did she know that she was about to go viral, too.
Parker’s facial expressions as Spicer spoke were captured on video, and broadcast along with his remarks.
Press Sec. on Hitler/Assad comments: "He was not using the gas on his own people the same way…he brought them into the Holocaust centers." pic.twitter.com/mO9EsWM4QT
— ABC News (@ABC) April 11, 2017
Soon, Twitter had isolated a GIF of the whole thing:
the journey in this gif is unbelievable pic.twitter.com/lanp2TvruQ
— Seb FoxAllen (@purpledocket) April 11, 2017
The GIF became a collective reaction meme for those who were stunned by what Spicer said, a subtle, real-time expression of how Twitter felt watching him speak.
Parker, a wise Twitter skeptic, was nice enough to answer a few questions about the whole thing. Our questions are in bold, with her answers below them. We condensed and edited for clarity.
When, and how, did you first realize that Twitter had turned that clip of you into a meme?
I’m going to betray my rather tenuous Millennial designation by revealing that I still don’t really fully understand the difference between a GIF and a meme. But suffice it to say that shortly after the briefing ended, I realized that my eyebrows were all over the Internet.
Could you say anything about what was going through your head as Spicer was speaking at that moment?
I think I was vacillating between confusion and disbelief as Spicer unfurled his answer. Because he had basically been given a pretty fair, easy opportunity to clean up his earlier misstatement, and instead we were all watching in real time as he made it infinitely worse.
Your bio on Twitter says you “remain skeptical” of the platform (Understandably!). How do you feel about becoming one of its reaction memes?
I maintain my healthy skepticism.
Do you feel like this is going to make it harder for you to do your job?
I hope not. While my interior monologue may have inadvertently played out on my face — I’m a pretty horrible liar generally — I always try to be fair in my coverage and respectful in my relationships with the White House (and anyone I cover, for that matter), and I think (I hope!) that matters more than a random raised eyebrow that happened to go viral.
Of all the things tweeted about your reaction, do you have a favorite?
My favorite response was probably from friends, family, editors, and even sources, who all texted me to say: We know that face! Apparently, I’m both perpetually expressive and skeptical. And shifty-eyed.