It seems like forever ago, but also like yesterday.
I was sitting in front of the TV watching the White House daily press briefing, as I do quite often, and Sean Spicer was behind the podium, as he always was. And for a moment, I thought I heard him say that Adolph Hitler hadn’t used chemical weapons during the war. Couldn’t be, I thought. He’s not on national television saying the opposite of what everyone in the world knows to be true, is he? Had he never studied the Holocaust?
Thanks to the marvels of modern PVR technology, I “pressed rewind” so I could hear it again, and lo’ and behold, I had heard right the first time. In speaking about Syrian’s president Assad’s sarin gas attack on his own citizens, Spicer said: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
Now, I’m no history major, but I’m pretty sure the 6 million people who died during the Holocaust would strongly disagree with Sean Spicer. It was a shocking misrepresentation of history, for which he was asked for clarification almost immediately by the press in attendance.
His response: “I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. He brought them into the Holocaust center; I understand that. But what I’m saying, in the way that Assad used [gas], where he went into towns, dropped down to innocent — into the middle of towns.”
Though the following few days were spent acknowledging, then walking back, then going into full triage mode over his inexcusable statements, there really isn’t a graceful way to recover from such a damaging gaffe, nor should there be.
I throw back to this incident to remind us all what kind of man we laughed with at the Emmy awards last weekend.
Suddenly, surrounded by celebrities, there was no memory of the lies Sean Spicer has told and the people he has offended. He was on stage at the Emmys, performing a skit that poked fun at him, so I guess we were all supposed to laugh together. I found it to be embarrassing. How fickle are we that we can so quickly forget?
For six months, Spicer was willing to amplify the falsehoods created by the White House. He did so with confidence and assertiveness, and actually scolded members of the press for doubting his ridiculous, easily-refuted claims. He did all this every single day on television, deliberately spreading false information to people around the world.
It started with all that nonsense about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd. Even when photographs proved the crowd wasn’t nearly as large as the White House claimed, Spicer went all in and said the crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the world.”
As hundreds of thousands of protesters marched against Trump in the nation’s capital, Spicer denied they were there and minimized the numbers, even though pictures and videos clearly proved the contrary.
He blamed the Secret Service for preventing hundreds of thousands of people from attending the ceremony. He accused the media of making up stories when reports contradicted those coming from the White House. He claimed voter fraud with respect to Hillary Clinton’s performance in the election. He parroted and bolstered every absurd, hateful, divisive word that littered the first months of the Trump presidency, with a sprinkle of condescension, just for good measure.
At the time, Spicer knew he was lying. We know that now because he has finally admitted it.
So now that he resigned and decided he’s going to on a public speaking tour, he’s trying to rehabilitate his reputation by making the rounds on the late-night talk show circuit, hardy-har-har-ing at his time at the president’s side.
His alarming disregard for the truth cannot be undone with a series of smiles, nor with a simple admission of guilt, no matter how sincere the regret. The press secretary repeatedly lied, misled, and manipulated the public, and he did this as spokesman for the president of the United States. Sharing a few jokes with Jimmy Kimmel and a self-deprecating skit aren’t enough to make me forget the harm he has done.