Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks onstage during the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Spicer's Emmy appearance gets mixed reviews
01:04 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

When Sean Spicer rolled a faux presidential podium onto the Emmys stage Sunday night in Los Angeles, a collective gasp went up among the assembled celebrities. Was it really him?? What would he say???

Spicer played his part perfectly – insisting that “this will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period – both in person and around the world.” The crowd laughed. He went backstage and palled around with the beautiful people.

Spicer Emmys crop

Here’s the thing: Not only was the Spicer bit not funny, it shouldn’t have happened at all.

Consider, first, the nature of the “joke” here.

Spicer was doing a send-up of his insistence – the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration – that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”

That assertion, in the earliest days of the Trump presidency, was a lie. Spicer knew it. But, because Trump was unhappy with the coverage of his inauguration – and the crowd comparisons to Barack Obama’s first inauguration – he sent Spicer out to lecture the press about how they were fake news. (They weren’t.)

That first lie of the Trump White House – and on such a dumb thing! – set the course of the administration. Spicer (and, of course, Trump) repeatedly misled or outright lied – and, even as they were doing it, tried to suggest that they were telling the truth and that the media was in the wrong. (They weren’t.)

Why is that so important? (Aside from the fact that lying is bad, of course.) Because Spicer’s salary was paid for by taxpayers. Which means that by willfully subverting the facts – undoubtedly at the direct behest of Trump – he was lying to the people who paid his salary.

That’s unacceptable. Yes, all White House press secretaries do what they can to shade the facts in their boss’s favor. It’s job security. But, none before Spicer has so thrown in his lot with the mistruths being spouted by a president.

To make a joke of that fact is just not funny. Spicer is not some press person for a snack foods company caught in a bit of ridiculous spin. He is – or was – the President’s spokesman, one of the most prominent public faces of this administration. That’s a much higher bar of responsibility.

The truth is that inviting Spicer to the Emmys – even if the joke was sort of on him – was a big mistake. There’s zero question that Spicer’s Q rating soared after that Emmy’s appearance. (Read Brian Stelter on the re-branding of Spicer.) He will be able to charge more in speaking fees now. He will command a higher salary at whatever his next job is. The second Spicer rolled that podium onto the Emmys stage, he won. Bigly.

What Spicer’s Emmy appearance proved is that in our culture, fame and infamy are indistinguishable. All that matters is that you are famous. How you got there doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter whether people are saying bad things or good things about you. It just matters that they are talking about you.

That Spicer was so sought-after behind the scenes at the Emmys further proves the point. Spicer – mocked by “Saturday Night Live” and instantly recognizable walking down any street in the country – is now a member of the celebrity club. Whether the other celebrities were taking pics with Spicer for ironic reasons (as I am sure most of them would claim) or not is immaterial. They recognized that he was now one of them. That he belonged there.

The entire thing was a massive validation for Spicer. A validation that purposely misleading on the taxpayer’s dime is a-OK! He was in on the joke! He knew he was lying the whole time! That makes it OK (or something)!


Except not.