All Is Not Forgiven, Sean Spicer
On his first full day as president, Donald Trump showed up at the CIA, described journalists as “among the most dishonest human beings on earth” and accused them of making up stuff about him.
He blamed journalists for a perceived rift between him and the intelligence agencies — failing to mention that earlier that same month, he had compared the intelligence community to Nazis.
Trump also said journalists had deliberately underreported the size of his inauguration crowd. Why, 1.5 million people showed up, he brayed.
Photographs proved this was false.
Later that same day, as hundreds of thousands of protesters marched against Trump in the nation’s capital, press secretary Sean Spicer doubled down on his boss’s false claims and launched his own attack against journalists.
This year’s inauguration drew “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the world,” Spicer said.
This was false.
Spicer also said the media had deliberately framed photographs of the inaugural ceremonies “to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.”
He offered no proof of this claim because it, too, was false.
On to the choo-choo.
“We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday,” Spicer said, “which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural.”
As The New York Times reported, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said 782,000 people rode the rapid transit system for Obama’s 2013 inauguration. This, by any measure grounded in reality, is more than the 571,000 who hopped on board for Trump’s.
Spicer also blamed the Secret Service, saying it had expanded its security measures on the National Mall, preventing “hundreds of thousands of people” from viewing the ceremony.
The Secret Service said this year’s measures were largely the same as in 2013, with few reports of long lines or delays.
At the time, Spicer knew he was lying. We know that now because he has finally admitted it.
When asked by The New York Times this week whether he regrets attacking the accuracy of media reporting about the inauguration, Spicer responded, “Of course I do, absolutely.”
The absence of an apology is duly noted.
Every semester, I tell my journalism students that it’s important for us to know our biases and our values.
We acknowledge our biases to avoid letting them cloud our vision. Objectivity is a myth, as our experiences inform our view of the world, but we must strive to be fair.
We must be clear on our values so that we are never in doubt of our own bottom line. I encourage students to ask this question of themselves: What am I not willing to do for my employer because it violates my own standards, my own ethics?
The answer to this question is so important because so often one instance of violating one’s principles turns into two that grow into three, and before you know it, you’re a ghost of who you once imagined yourself to be.
For six months, Sean Spicer was willing to amplify many of Donald Trump’s lies, including the despicable claim that millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in New York and California.
Spicer told Jimmy Kimmel a week ago: “He’s the president. He decides. And that’s what you sign up to do.”
He’s on the circuit now, trying to rehab his reputation and boost his speaking fees. Last weekend, he parodied Melissa McCarthy’s parody of him, pushing a lectern around onstage at the Emmys as he parroted his first news conference.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period — both in person and around the world,” he declared, to uproarious laughter.
This is comedy, we’re told. But imagine having to describe to someone who doesn’t know Sean Spicer — a child, maybe, who’s old enough to ask — why what he’s saying is supposed to be funny. Nothing kills a joke like having to explain it.
All is not forgiven, Sean Spicer.
For that, you have to admit you lied to America.
You have to say you’re sorry, too.
Try to act as if you mean it.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate.