As a consumer and occasional producer of this type of journalism, I am well acquainted with the genre. And yet somehow, on Tuesday night, going through the motions of amused detachment felt insufficient to justify my participation. A nagging feeling of complicity persisted.
And so, when Spicer—wearing dark jeans, a blue blazer, and a pleased grin—paused between book signings to greet me with an exclamation of, “Wow, looks like I’ve really made it!” it was all I could do to stifle a weary sigh before responding, simply, “I’m here.”
There was a time, not too long ago, when people were forecasting a gloomy outlook for Spicer’s post–White House career. His six months behind the podium as President Trump’s press secretary had been defined in the public consciousness by a blur of brazen lies and barely trying spin—his sputtering press briefings immortalized on Saturday Night Live, his legacy shaped by his most humiliating meltdowns. (Remember the “Holocaust centers”?)
When he resigned, outside observers mercifully unschooled in the ways of Washington assumed that his role as an agent of misinformation—and his willing participation in Trump’s culture war on the press—would result in some sort of negative consequence for the career communications professional.
It’s true that Spicer struggled to land the kind of cable-news contract typically offered to high-profile White House departees. (Network insiders worried, apparently without irony, that he lacked “credibility.”) But then came the offers on the high-dollar speaking circuit (where he reportedly sought north of $30,000 a speech), and the prestigious fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the book deal, and the talk-show pilot, and the gig at the cash-flush America First super PAC, and—well, it’s safe to say now that Spicer has landed on his feet.
Standing amid a throng of fans, his face illuminated by camera light—the event was being covered by C-SPAN and RT, as well as another roving camera crew—Spicer reveled in his triumph.
“I’m having a blast and enjoying this, and frankly I’m blessed by the amount of opportunities that have come my way,” Spicer told me. “And that’s a pretty good way to go through life.”
Of course, outside the party, the coverage of his book had been less than glowing. During an interview with the BBC, a host had flatly told Spicer, “You have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with [Trump’s] lies.” And in a Wall Street Journal review, the journalist Jonathan Karl had written that Spicer’s book was “much like his tenure as press secretary: short, littered with inaccuracies, and offering up one consistent theme: Mr. Trump can do no wrong.”
When I asked Spicer if he had read the Journal review, he made a point of appearing aggressively unfazed.
“To be honest with you, it’s sort of what I expected,” Spicer said. “Because part of the book talks about the problems with the elite media. I mean, they’re not gonna look at it favorably. So it’s not shocking.”