On Sunday night, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer rolled out to the Emmys stage on a podium he made infamous by peddling lies and falsehoods during Donald Trump’s first months, and laughter from a sea of White, famous and wealthy faces enveloped him like he was Melissa McCarthy herself.
Except it wasn’t Melissa McCarthy. In fact, McCarthy — who seemed to go viral every single time she channeled Spicer on Saturday Night Live — sat with an uncomfortable smirk on her face. And it wasn’t funny. There’s nothing funny about applauding a man who defended policies, ideas and flat out lies created to advance a bigoted, xenophobic and racist agenda. There’s also nothing entertaining about having that man grace a stage applauded for its diversity this year — among the history makers, Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing, Sterling K. Brown became the first Black actor in 19 years to take home a trophy for lead actor in a drama series and Donald Glover won big with Atlanta, becoming the first Black person to win an Emmy for directing for a comedy.
Spicer’s presence was an insult. Not only to the great accomplishments of Black and Brown people on the Emmys stage last night, but to Americans who paid his salary while he transformed the role of press secretary into a private public relations firm and demonized the free press.
To recap, Spicer continuously lied about Trump’s inauguration crowds. He claimed Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical warfare. He supported Trump’s Muslim ban. He publicly berated respected journalists at daily press briefings and refused to answer their questions about developments that would affect the American public. Spicer contended that millions voted illegally in the election. Claimed that Trump was treated badly. And defended the president’s lie that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Towers.
Behavior that endangers hard-working families in America, threatens to tear them apart with arbitrary bans, perpetuates harmful stereotypes, and works to create Trump’s autocracy by silencing the public and the press while simultaneously stroking a self-serving president’s ego should not be met with cuddles from James Corden.
It demands scrutiny and accountability. It demands an examination into who is really afforded rebranding on this scale. An examination into why White people choose to normalize behavior that endangers anyone who doesn’t look like them.
It’s why rich, White celebrities can laugh when Spicer pokes fun at himself while seeming to admit he knew those statements were lies. Simply because it doesn’t affect them. It’s why Jimmy Fallon can rub Trump’s head and look on surprised at the backlash. Because normalizing these White men doesn’t stand to change their lives tremendously. Because Spicer and Trump’s lies don’t endanger them. Don’t villainize them. Don’t dehumanize them.
These same people, those who laughed at Spicer and counter the backlash with “it’s not a big deal,” will have you believe that Spicer was a man put in an impossible situation. That he was treated badly by his boss and coerced to push these lies.
But we must not forget that even before he jumped on the Emmys stage in a bit that will surely garner him more checks, more gigs, more fame, he knew good and well what he did. And he didn’t care. During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last week, Spicer said it was his job to say whatever Trump wanted him to say.
“That’s what you sign up to do,” he said.
The only comedy here is that not only will Spicer get away with lying to the American public for months, but that he will thrive while doing it.