Sean Spicer, originator of “alternative facts”, resigns from the White House

Sean Spicer at the 2017 Conservative Party Action Conference (Wikimedia Commons)

WHITE HOUSE PRESS Secretary Sean Spicer, whose claims concerning the size of the crowd for President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January led to the coining of “alternative facts” has announced his resignation. He will remain in the post until August.

The New York Times reports that his resignation is a protest against the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director.

Scaramucci previously worked on President Trump’s transition team, initially led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and later by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, amid reports of a “purge” of Christie’s staff within the team. Trump allegedly thought Christie to be a liability in the wake of Bridgegate, a scandal that revealed he had colluded with other members of his staff in New Jersey to create traffic jams.

Christie made headlines earlier this month after he and his family were photographed using a beach that was not accessible to the public.

Spicer apparently strongly disagreed with Scaramucci’s selection. His resignation marks the end of an unprecedented period of instability for the press office of the White House.

The day after President Trump’s inauguration, Spicer insisted the crowds present were the “largest ever. Period.” According to figures from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the number of people present for Trump’s inauguration was almost half the number for that of President Barack Obama’s first ceremony in 2009.

Appearing with CNN’s Chuck Todd later that day, Counselor to President Trump Kellyanne Conway called Spicer’s statistics “alternative facts.”

The interview and its subsequent response on social media led to sales of George Orwell’s 1984 rising by 9500%. 

In April, following the use of chemical weapons in Syria by its leader, Bashar Al-Assad, Spicer released a statement alleging not even Adolf Hitler “[sank] to using chemical weapons.” Hydrogen cyanide was used in the gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz.  

Beginning on June 29th, journalists at their daily press briefings were prohibited from recording sound or video. Independent journalist Ksenija Pavlovic rebelled against this ruling on Wednesday, streaming audio from the briefiing on Periscope.

His various incidents and behaviour in front of the White House cameras was parodied by Saturday Night Live, with actor Melissa McCarthy in the role of Spicer.

Scaramucci’s hiring represents another about-turn from President Trump’s campaign rhetoric. During the presidential race in 2016, Trump criticised both his Republican rival for the nomination, Ted Cruz, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for being “owned” by Goldman Sachs. CNN reported in 2013 that Clinton earned at least $225,000 per speech, which she often gave at financial organisations.

Members of the Trump administration who have previously been involved with Goldman Sachs include Treasury Secretary Anthony Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

Scaramucci worked for Goldman Sachs before setting up his own investment firm, SkyBridge Capital, in 2005.

Anthony Scarmucci speaking at SkyBridge (Wikimedia Commons)

According to the NYT report, Scaramucci’s selection was questioned by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who “thought [he] lacked the requisite organisational or political experience”. Similarly to Trump, who held no elected office before assuming the presidency – the first time a President has neither been in office or served in the military before his election – Scaramucci have previously shared the media spotlight. A fierce defender of President Trump during the election, Scaramucci also previously hosted Wall Street Week and contributed to Fox News, one of the few media outlets Trump has not labelled “fake”.

After being introduced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Friday’s briefing Scaramucci appeared confident in front of the crowd, exhibiting a charisma lacking from Spicer’s often terse interactions with White House correspondents.

Questioned on whether President Trump was currently “under siege”, following another failure by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Scaramucci responded:

“I want to limit my remarks on the Russia investigation.

I don’t see [President Trump] as a guy who’s ever under siege. I see the President as a winner. We’re going do a lot of winning”

His words mirror a promise by Trump on the campaign trail:

“We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore.’”

Asked later about the relationship between the Trump administration and the press, and the emergence of “fake news”, Scaramucci was diplomatic but seemed to agree with the President’s multiple accusations of his discrediting by the liberal media.

“I wanna speak for myself – I’ve never I have empathy for journalists. But there feels like there’s a bit of a media bias. I’d like to reverse that.”

It remains unclear what role Sanders will fill once Spicer leaves the White House in late August.

Sean Spicer (left) as the Easter Bunny during an Easter egg roll on the White House lawn, with President Bush

 

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