Sean Spicer claims it was his job to say whatever President Trump told him to say.
“That’s what you sign up to do,” the former White House press secretary said Wednesday on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” late-night show.
Revisiting his memorable briefing-room debut — a tirade against the media in which he falsely claimed that Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd was the largest in history — Spicer basically admitted that he was willing to lie for Trump.
“Even if you know the crowd wasn’t bigger, you have to go — as press secretary, you have to say that it was,” Kimmel said, trying to understand Spicer’s position.
“Look, your job as press secretary is to represent the president’s voice,” Spicer replied, “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. Whether or not you agree or not isn’t your job.”
The key phrase here is “other areas.” On policy matters, Spicer is certainly correct. No two people will agree on policy 100 percent of the time, but a good spokesman sets aside his own opinion and publicly represents the view of his boss.
But do “other areas” include matters of fact? Whether Trump’s crowd was the biggest ever is not a matter of opinion. It is objectively true or false — and it happens to be false.
What Spicer is saying here is that he believes his job was not merely to defend political decisions with which he disagreed but to make false statements, if asked to do so by the president.
Speaking with Kimmel, Spicer indicated that he did not want to talk about crowd size in his first address to reporters.
“There was a lot of us that wanted to be focused on his agenda, what he spoke about in his inaugural address,” Spicer said. “So, you know, look, but he’s president. He made a decision.”
Asked directly if crowd size would have been an issue, if the decision were up to him, Spicer deflected. “If it was up to me, I would have probably worn a different suit,” he joked, referring to reports that Trump was displeased by the poor tailoring of Spicer’s jacket.
But Spicer offered a glimpse of the way he rationalized making the claim that Trump outdrew all previous presidents.
“Whether or not you voted for him or not, the president won the election; he faced a lot of head winds,” Spicer said. “And I think there was a faction of people out there that didn’t want to give him the credit that he rightly deserved, and I think he takes a lot of that sometimes personally. Some of us who worked very hard to get him elected felt as though a lot of folks in the media, in particular, constantly sought to undermine the validity of that election. And so you have to understand it sometimes from that perspective.”
Spicer’s argument is that reports that pointed out that Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd was smaller than Barack Obama’s were symptomatic of a broader media effort to minimize Trump’s electoral accomplishment. Spicer seemed to justify inflating Trump’s attendance as a way of fighting back against a press corps that he felt was treating the president unfairly.