Sean Spicer Didn’t Belong at the Emmys

By Olivia Libowitz
Elm Staff Writer

Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s performance belittled his serious and negative impact on minority Americans since the start of the Trump administration.

If you missed the Emmys last week allow me to fill you in: Best Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series went to Riz Ahmed, Best Variety Talk Show went to “Last Week Tonight,” and Most Uncomfortable TV Moment Since Trump Went Down an Escalator to Eye of the Tiger went to former Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Awkward Mid-Show Cameo.

That’s right. Seeing as Spicer is so well known as a comedic genius, it only made sense to bring him on stage at the Emmys and let him riff about the flaming car-crash that was his time in office. Wheeling in a presidential-looking podium, Spicer made several clumsy attempts at humor, referring to this year’s Emmys audience as “the largest audience to witness an Emmys. Period.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’d like to start by highlighting the underlying issue with Spicer’s appearance: it normalizes his behavior. Making a joke out of problematic political figures harkens back to last September, and presidential candidate Donald Trump’s appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Did Fallon interrogate the soon-to-be-president with relevant and important questions? Did he put Trump in a spotlight and force him to admit the logic behind his political views to the audience? Not quite. In an equally professional and hard-hitting move, he ruffled Trump’s hair. Fallon expected this to go over quite well with his viewers. He was wrong. The backlash was immediate, and Fallon was forced to apologize saying, “I didn’t do it to humanize him, I did it to minimize him.”

His apology is appreciated, but after the overwhelmingly negative response to that action, one would think Stephen Colbert, both a veteran talk show hostand Emmys host, would know better. The issue with bringing Spicer on stage is that they did it to have an inside man mock Trump. A logical inclination, but in doing so, they let Spicer be the good guy.

This is a dangerous decision. In his 182 days as press secretary—the sixth shortest term since the position was created—Spicer shocked the nation with a slew of bizarre statements. He lied about crowd sizes at the inauguration, and defended his inaccuracy by saying “sometimes we can disagree with the facts.” He trivialized Hitler—Hitler.—by comparing him to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and saying Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” This statement is indisputably false. Eventually, he would step down as press secretary, and resign entirely after the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as new communications director.

Back to the Emmys. Why shouldn’t we bring Spicer on stage? Stick him in front of a crowd and laugh at him? Because the way that he was portrayed forced the audience to laugh with him, or not at all. He got to join in the chuckle.

Unfortunately, for the millions of American people Spicer has insulted, demeaned, or ridiculed—LGBTQ people, Jews, Latinx, African-Americans, etc.—laughing with him just isn’t an option. Comedy needs tragedy, which Spicer practically embodies, and it also needs time. We haven’t had time yet. The lies and alternative facts are still freshly cut by Spicer’s influence, and to joke around like he wasn’t part of the problem is ridiculous.

At the after party, he was in photos with celebrities such as Seth Meyers and L.L. Cool J. James Corden, another late show host, even got caught kissing him on the cheek. He has since apologized, saying he’s “disappointed” in himself, and that he truly heard and understood the backlash it received. We can’t do this. We can’t take this man, whose job it was to represent the views of the president, and allow him to become the goofy aw-shucks sort of character who we can all warm up to now. As I said, it was his job to represent the views of the president. Views that have negatively impacted many lives. Views that have repeatedly insulted the arts and those who partake in them—which is a particularly surprising thing for the coordinators of the Emmys to forget.

Truly though, the most uncomfortable part of the whole performance was watching Melissa McCarthy’s face, as she realized that she does a better portrayal of Spicer than even Spicer can do.

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