On the night of the 2016 election, Sean Spicer took a break from celebrating Donald Trump’s victory to demand that I “eat crow.”
I was standing in the New York Hilton ballroom waiting for Trump to deliver his victory speech, when Spicer approached me out of the blue, in the full glow of triumph. His impulse to gloat was understandable—the campaign had defied the polls, humiliated the pundits, pulled off the impossible. Spicer was in the mood to dunk on a reporter, and I was in his line of sight.
The confrontation didn’t last longer than a minute, and quickly devolved into Spicer calling me “dude” in that aggressive, sputtering style that would soon be immortalized on Saturday Night Live, while he accused me of “advocating for Hillary.” When he noticed I was recording him, he abruptly ended our conversation and stomped off.
I didn’t take it personally. As a reporter, I had been working with—and getting chewed out by—Spicer for years. I’d always been struck by his strong antipathy toward both political journalism as a craft, and political journalists as a class of people. When he was at the Republican National Committee, sources tell me, he used to maintain a “bad reporters” folder in his inbox to keep track of those in the press he believed had treated him unfairly. And among D.C. reporters, it was well known that calling Spicer for comment would more likely than not require sitting through a recitation of recent journalistic sins committed by yourself and your colleagues. If the universe of Washington flacks can be divided among those who mostly like reporters and those who mostly hate them, Spicer seemed to be firmly the latter camp.