Sean Spicer Takes Questions Again, This Time Peddling His Book

Sean Spicer has written a book. And to promote it in interview after interview, he seems willing to relive his darkest moments as White House press secretary.

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Julia Jacobs
, New York Times

Sean Spicer has written a book. And to promote it in interview after interview, he seems willing to relive his darkest moments as White House press secretary.

A National Public Radio host grilled him last week about President Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd, yet again. A BBC anchor told him Monday that he had “corrupted discourse for the entire world.” Fox News was gentler, asking his mother what it was like to raise “this amazing child.” (“Oh come on,” she replied, with a laugh.)

“Some interviews are obviously more enjoyable than others,” Spicer told The New York Times in a phone interview Wednesday.

The confrontational BBC interview in particular has been shared with relish by his critics online, with some journalists calling the exchange “brutal” and “savage.”

Emily Maitlis, the BBC anchor of “Newsnight,” grilled Spicer on his infamous first briefing, in which he falsely said that Trump’s swearing-in a day earlier had drawn the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”

Maitlis called the news conference the start of a “corrosive culture” in the United States and beyond and said Spicer had corrupted the political conversation “by going along with these lies.”

He readily admitted wanting a “do-over” of that first day. “We all make mistakes,” he said, growing flustered as Maitlis continued to press him on the crowd size issue. “I’m not sitting here saying I’m not without fault.”

He added, “There were days that were extremely lonely in that job because I screwed up.”

Spicer has his reasons to put himself out there, of course. He is developing a talk show, and his book, “The Briefing,” was released by Regnery Publishing this week. On Wednesday alone, he had 33 interviews scheduled as well as an appearance at a Q&A session, said Kay Foley, a spokeswoman.

“I love the demand we’ve had to talk about the book,” Spicer said.

The book tour kicked off with a round of gatherings that seemed more like fundraisers, with tickets ranging from $250 to $1,000. The interviews have proved more grueling. Last week, Mary Louise Kelly of National Public Radio pushed Spicer on the inauguration crowd issue and on what his objective was as press secretary: to “parrot” the president’s thoughts from the lectern or to correct the factual record?

A spokesman’s job, Spicer responded, is to say what the president “thinks and believes.”

He found friendlier turf on “Fox and Friends” on Monday. Ainsley Earhardt’s one-on-one interview took place at his family home in Rhode Island, where she showed childhood photographs of Spicer and also talked to his mother and his wife.

It was the BBC clips on social media that caused the most buzz. Spicer said Wednesday that he viewed Maitlis’ characterizations in the interview as “extreme” and “outlandish.”

But a reporter has the right to ask any question she wants, he added.

And ask she did. In another notable exchange, Maitlis mentioned the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump made vulgar comments about assaulting women.

Spicer replied, “We’ve all said things in private, which that was, that are inappropriate and regrettable.”

Had he ever said such things? she asked. “I’ve probably said some things that I regret, absolutely,” Spicer said. “I don’t know that I’ve used those exact terms.”

Maitlis said Wednesday that she was just doing her job. “That is what we do: We hold people accountable in robust interviews,” she said. “It was not about me versus Sean Spicer at all.”

Spicer’s book, which arrived in stores on Tuesday, is ranked No. 178 on Amazon’s best-seller list. Trump gave it a positive assessment in a tweet last month, urging his followers to buy it.

The administration is young, but the book deals are multiplying. Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as White House communications director, is writing a book called “The Blue Collar President,” due this fall. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will publish a book in 2020 about his military career and time in the White House as national security adviser.

In Spicer’s six months as press secretary, the media scrutinized — and often poked fun at — his every move. From quipping about his wardrobe to his Dippin’ Dots fixation, the spotlight on Spicer briefly made him one of the most famous press secretaries in U.S. history.

His book covers what will be familiar episodes to Spicer watchers, including the inauguration count controversy, accusations that he took a mini fridge from a nearby office, and the controversy over his claim that Hitler did not use chemical weapons during the Holocaust, which he regrets. That was “personally painful,” he said. “I had clearly hurt other people in a way that I would never, ever want to do.”

Now that Spicer’s White House days are well behind him, he is also willing to confront some of his well-publicized quirks, like the chewing-gum habit that Melissa McCarthy satirized on Saturday Night Live.

On Wednesday, Spicer called her impersonation “funny and frankly well-deserved.”

He also said that he had cut down his gum intake. “I can’t say I haven’t chewed gum since then, but definitely not as vociferously as in the past.”

Spicer has made another big lifestyle change. “I don’t spend my days glued to media coverage and events the way I used to,” he said.

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