Spicer suggests critics of Emmy appearance should lighten up

NEW YORK — Sean Spicer says his surprise Emmy Awards appearance was a chance to have some fun, and suggested Tuesday that people who were upset by it were taking things too seriously.

Clearly, not everyone was laughing, however. For Emmys host Stephen Colbert, there’s also a risk that a joke he engineered could wind up doing collateral damage.

The former White House press secretary’s cameo was Colbert’s idea, and they arranged to maximize the surprise factor through Chris Licht, the Colbert producer who knew Spicer from his background in news. Colbert set the joke up by saying there was no way of knowing how many people would be watching the Emmys, then Spicer wheeled out from behind a podium to say “this will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys period, both in person and around the world.”

The clear reference was to Spicer’s first appearance in the White House press room, arguing against photographic evidence about how large President Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day audience was. (In an unfortunate parallel, Emmy viewership on Sunday essentially tied last year with the smallest ever for the television awards show).

Trump critics resented the apparent effort to “normalize” Spicer and make light of the idea of not telling the truth in the White House press room.

“The message of his presence was not only that we can all laugh at his service and sycophancy in the Trump administration, but that he’s willing to laugh with us,” wrote Frank Bruni in a column for The New York Times titled “The Shameful Embrace of Sean Spicer at the Emmys.”

On “The View,” Joy Behar said that if Spicer and other Trump surrogates apologize to the American people, “then I’ll have fun with you, Sean.”

Liberal commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted that the Emmys lost its credibility by lionizing Spicer. Even a Republican strategist, Kevin Madden, warned on CNN that Spicer should be wary of equating notoriety with respect.

To which Spicer, reached on an airplane on Tuesday, offered a suggestion: lighten up.