Earlier this week, Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s short-term press secretary with a long-term habit of sycophancy, made his debut on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
This was the premiere episode of the reality show’s 28th season. Spicer showed up wearing white pants and shoes and a shiny neon green V-neck shirt with layers of ruffles to adorn both his cleavage and his arms. He looked ridiculous, but he was so jolly and jovial, you understand. “Brave,” the reliably right-wing Mike Huckabee said on Twitter.
Spicer served as Trump’s first press secretary for all of seven months. He kicked off his tenure by snarling at journalists for failing to repeat the president’s lies about the size of his inauguration crowd. Spicer boasted that it was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”
As countless journalists noted, a time-lapse video produced by PBS showed otherwise. The National Mall was never full at any stage during that day, in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
Eventually, Spicer said he regretted defending the indefensible that day. He has also expressed regret for an April 2017 press briefing, in which he discussed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons to attack civilians, and attempted to push back on comparisons to Adolf Hitler.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” he said. “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
When a reporter asked him to clarify, Spicer added, “I think when you come to sarin gas, (Hitler) was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.”
And so there we were, in 2017, having to contradict the press secretary for the president of the United States and remind readers that Hitler did, indeed, use chemical gas agents to kill more than 6 million Jews and other prisoners in concentration camps — not “concentration centers,” as Spicer called them that day — during the Holocaust.
But hey, he’s in ruffles now! Giving lots of paid speeches, and consulting, too. And in January, the Newport Daily News reported that Spicer had bought a summer home for nearly $800,000 in Rhode Island.
Most notably, Spicer is saying not one negative word about the man he helped to become the most dangerous man ever to be president of the United States.
As Annie Karni wrote for The New York Times, “Mr. Spicer, more than any other staff member in the revolving door that is President Trump’s West Wing, has become an avatar for the reputational sacrifice and ritual humiliation that come with trying to remain in Mr. Trump’s good graces while also seeking mainstream acceptance.”
That “mainstream acceptance” is where we, the American public, come in.
What do we think of all this?
Before his televised appearance, Spicer tweeted: “Clearly the judges aren’t going to be with me. Let’s send a message to #Hollywood that those of us who stand for #Christ won’t be discounted.”
Right-wing so-called Christians regularly try to wield God as a weapon, but I’ve never before seen Jesus cast as cha-cha-cha Christ.
Spicer later deleted that tweet.
His Facebook post, in part, later read: “What. A. Night. Playing the bongos to the Spice Girls, while wearing a low cut ruffled lime green shirt check every box I had for getting out of my comfort zone. I had a blast!”
There are many ways Spicer could choose to get out of his “comfort zone.”
He could publicly apologize, over and over, for the harm he helped to inflict on this country. He could use his celebrity to raise money for food banks, to feed the hungry, or take up the cause of diaper banks, to clothe babes in poverty. He could raise money to house the homeless, from sea to shining sea.
Instead, Spicer chose to shimmy on a national television stage to fuel an apparently bottomless need for money and attention. Spicer thinks that we — you and I — should find this spectacle hilarious.
“I was wearing a lime green shirt and playing the bongos,” Spicer said in the wake of withering criticism. “If you weren’t laughing, then you have a problem.”
There are times when we have to remind ourselves that an unwillingness to laugh does not mean we have lost our sense of humor.
This would be one of those times.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020.