During his tenure as White House press secretary, Spicer made a number of public statements that were controversial or false. He had a contentious relationship with the White House press corps. The first such instance occurred on the day following Trump's inauguration. Spicer repeated the claim that crowds at the ceremony were the largest ever at such an event and that the press had deliberately under-estimated the number of spectators. After this statement was widely criticized, Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said that Spicer had presented what she called "alternative facts" regarding the inauguration's attendance numbers.
On July 21, 2017, Spicer announced his intention to resign as White House Press Secretary, and will formally step down from the role in August 2017.
From 1985 to 1989, Spicer attended Portsmouth Abbey School, a Roman Catholic boarding school in Rhode Island. While in high school, he volunteered for local political campaigns in Rhode Island and continued those activities while at college.
He attended Connecticut College from 1989 to 1993 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government. In college he was a student senator. In April 1993, an article in the student paper, The College Voice, referred to Spicer as "Sean Sphincter"; Spicer submitted an angry complaint to the paper and followed up by pushing for college judicial action against the paper, for which he received further ribbing from the campus satirical publication Blats. The incident was later cited as a precursor of his contentious relationship with the media in later years.
In February 2011, Spicer became the communications director of the Republican National Committee. At the RNC, he enlarged the organization's social media operations, built an in-house TV production team, and created a rapid response program to reply to attacks. In February 2015, he was given an additional role, as chief strategist for the party.
While at the RNC, Spicer was critical of then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. In June 2015, after Trump said illegal immigrants from Mexico were involved in crimes in the U.S., Spicer said "painting Mexican Americans with that kind of a brush, I think that's probably something that is not helpful to the cause." In July 2015, he released a public criticism of Trump's comments on U.S. Senator John McCain, saying "there is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably."
Press secretary for the Trump administration
On December 22, 2016, Spicer was named the White House press secretary for Donald Trump. On December 24, he was also named the communications director for the Trump Administration after the sudden and unexpected resignation of Jason Miller.
On January 21, 2017, which was the day after the inauguration and two days before his first official press conference, Spicer made a statement to the press that was negatively critical of the media; he said that they had underestimated the size of the crowds for President Trump's inaugural ceremony. He claimed that the ceremony had drawn the "largest audience to ever to witness an inauguration, period – both in person and around the globe". But as many sources immediately pointed out, that claim was false.
Spicer stated that the press had altered images of the event to minimize the size of the crowds. He said floor coverings over the grass were to blame for a visual effect that made the audience look smaller, and stated they had never been used before despite the fact that they had been used in 2013 for the preceding second inauguration of Barack Obama. He also used incorrect figures to claim that Metro ridership was higher during Trump's inauguration than during Obama's inauguration, when in fact it was lower than during either of Obama's inaugurations. Spicer took no questions after his statement. Later, Spicer defended his previous statements by saying "sometimes we can disagree with the facts". It was subsequently reported that Spicer had made the statement on direct orders from Trump, who was furious at what he considered unfair press coverage of his inauguration.
In response to the briefing, conservative political analyst Bill Kristol wrote: "It is embarrassing, as an American, to watch this briefing by Sean Spicer from the podium at the White House."Vanity Fair described Spicer's statement as "peppered with lies", and The Atlantic described Spicer's briefing as "bizarre". The article referred to the "Trump administration's needless lies" and noted that Spicer's statements appeared to involve a "deliberate attempt to mislead".Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post gave Spicer's claims four Pinocchios, writing that he was so appalled by the press secretary's performance that he wished he could have given him five Pinocchios instead of the maximum number of four.
Trump's team defended Spicer's statements. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus stated that the purpose of Spicer's conference was to call out what he called "dishonesty in the media" and their "obsession with delegitimizing the president". Trump's campaign strategist and counselor, Kellyanne Conway, told NBC's Chuck Todd that Trump's inauguration crowd numbers could not be proved nor quantified and that the press secretary was simply giving "alternative facts". Todd responded by saying, "Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods."
Two days later on January 23, 2017, Spicer held his first official White House press conference and took questions from reporters. When Spicer was asked about attendance at the inauguration, he said that his definition of a viewing audience also included individuals who watched the event on television as well as on social media online. He claimed that online viewership must have been in the "tens of millions".
Spicer's argument was based on the reported figure of 16.9 million people who began streaming the inauguration on CNN's website. This argument has been criticized because the 16.9 million streams included people who started the stream and then left.
On February 7, 2017, CNN reported that "President Donald Trump is disappointed in Spicer's performance during the first two weeks of the administration." Trump was also upset at White House chief of staff Reince Priebus for recommending Spicer, the network reported. Trump "regrets it every day and blames Priebus", a White House source told CNN. His role as temporary communications director was filled by Michael Dubke on March 6, 2017.
His remarks were widely criticized, especially given the fact that the timing of the remarks coincided with the Jewish holiday of Passover. Spicer later clarified that he was not trying to deny that Hitler used lethal gas during the Holocaust, instead that he was trying to compare how Assad dropped bombs on population centers to how Hitler used the gas. Amid calls for his resignation, Spicer apologized the next day.
Relationship with White House press corps
As White House press secretary, Spicer has had a contentious relationship with the White House press corps. In February 2017, the White House selectively blocked several news outlets—including the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Politico—from an off-camera briefing (or "gaggle") with Spicer, a move that prompted strong objections from the outlets concerned, as well as by the White House Correspondents' Association. The barring of the outlets was "a rare and surprising move that came amid President Trump's escalating war against the media." Reporters from the Associated Press and Time magazine were admitted to the briefing, but chose not to attend in protest of the exclusion of other journalists.
On July 21, 2017, Spicer announced his intention to resign as White House Press Secretary. He made his decision known immediately after President Trump appointed financier Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director. In the weeks leading up to the resignation announcement, Spicer had sought "a more strategic communications role" in the White House. Trump had reportedly been dissatisfied for some time with Spicer's performance as White House Press Secretary. According to the New York Times, Trump asked Spicer to stay on, but Spicer announced his resignation after telling the President he "vehemently disagreed" with the appointment of Scaramucci. In a tweet, Spicer said that it has been "an honor and a privilege" to serve Trump and that he will continue his service through August 2017. He will be replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
On January 24, 2017, Trevor Noah profiled Spicer on The Daily Show with a segment called "Profiles in Tremendousness". Noah likened him to an air freshener "that just makes things worse" in the restroom and roasted him about using "alternative facts".
Spicer's frequently combative press conferences were satirized four times on Saturday Night Live, with actress Melissa McCarthy playing the role of Spicer. Her portrayal was described as "genius", mixing "energy and weaponized hostility". Spicer stated that he found the skits funny, but suggested that McCarthy "could dial back" a bit.
^ ab"Born". The Newport Daily News. Newport County, Rhode Island. September 25, 1971. p. 2. Spicer – Sept. 23, 1971, at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island, a son to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Spicer (Kathryn Grossman)...
^ abKevin Liptak (January 21, 2017). "Reality Check: Sean Spicer hits the media over crowds". CNN. Spicer launched into a tirade against the media Saturday, slamming what he said was unfair reporting of the attendance of President Donald Trump's inauguration, along with other criticisms. Many of the facts he cited, however, are inaccurate.
^"Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 4/11/2017, #36". whitehouse.gov. April 11, 2017. Archived from the original on May 6, 2017. MR. SPICER: I think a couple things. You look -- we didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to, if you're Russia, ask yourself is this a country that you and a regime that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed on to international agreements rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country. To not stand up to not only Assad, but your own word, should be troubling.