Two Sundays past marked the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony. For the 69th year in a row, the cast and crew of the best in T.V. production came together for a hefty dose of self-congratulation and bootlicking—a night that first-time host Stephen Colbert introduced as “us celebrating us.”
Now, I have never been a fan of watching these awards ceremonies. I have always had those celebrities that I will root for to win the awards, and I rejoice over the wins modestly the next day. However, what everyone saw at this ceremony completely superseded the wins and losses of the night, polarizing everyone who witnessed it or heard about it thereafter.
Upon learning of Colbert’s place as the host of the event, I was fully aware that the night would turn out as an extravagant mock-fest of President Trump, as not one of Colbert’s monologues on his late night program since Trump’s inauguration has discluded the man. What I did not expect was the unprecedented, the utterly shocking—for Colbert to have the temerity to invite former White House press secretary Sean Spicer onstage as part of the joke. Spicer’s task was to reaffirm Colbert that the audience watching the Emmys was, in fact, the biggest ever, alluding to Trump’s false claim that his inauguration audience was the biggest in history. Not everyone bought the joke.
Spicer clearly had oodles of fun for his brief time onstage, sounding much like a giddy school child in his delivery of the punchline as he stood behind his faux White House press podium. The night proved to be a liberating and affirming experience for Spicer, and perhaps even a chance to earn some of the public’s trust back.
He deserves it. After the hell that he had to endure for half a year, he has more than earned it.
Just like most of the staffers in Trump’s unholy circus of dunces supposedly dubbed as a presidential administration, Spicer was not very good at his job. However, he was given perhaps the most difficult task out of all of his colleagues: to defend the indefensible. Day by day, Spicer dodged questions with catchy talking points of “what the President believes” and requests for questions relating to other topics when he would tire of hearing the same question rephrased by a different reporter. It was an impossible job, and a futile effort by the administration to keep an old tradition afloat. The press did not deliver many questions, Spicer did not dish out coherent answers.
Here’s the thing: he could not give out coherent answers to rationalize Trump’s acts of lunacy and moronic Twitter storms. The content this man was given to defend to the public lends itself to atrocity, and guarantees poor public opinion for anyone who attempts to rationalize it. Spicer knew this, and he obviously felt humiliated and frustrated over it, as his frequent lashings of the press will indicate. However, during his press conferences, he exhibited all the qualifications of a concise, effective communicator, speaking with even flow and an air of professionalism not often found in this iteration of the White House.
Amid Spicer’s tenure as Trump’s press secretary, it’s very easy to forget that he stood out in Washington as a top political insider, working tirelessly in the name of policy—policy that he believed was right for the American people. He even spent much of 2016 attempting a derailment of Trump’s presidential bid. Is his submission to Trump even less honorable with this in mind? Possibly, unless Spicer desired more than just an insider position after one of the most historically significant presidential races in modern American history. I bet he was willing to be more than a fly on the wall in exchange for anything, even the utter embarrassment of verbal defense for the tangerine nightmare.
It’s evident that no one will make it out of the Trump administration with a clean slate. But, as his fellowship offer from Harvard University indicates, Spicer is more than his history with Donald Trump. He was assigned an impossible job and he made do the best he could—the best anyone could. His allegiance to Trump has clearly worn thin following his resignation as press secretary, as his agreement to appear at the Emmys showed. His former boss has repeatedly insisted over the years that the Emmys are rigged. That night was a special night for Spicer, and one he may never get to relive. We should give it to him. Perhaps Spicer saw this television opportunity as a means of waving a final goodbye to his colleagues still suffering within Trump’s White House, as he continues to breathe the fresh air of the outside world. When asked about the kiss he gave Spicer that night, late night host James Corden replied, “everyone was kissing ass… I just happened to kiss the biggest one there.” Let’s not blame Spicer for the past eight months. Trump is, and always will be, the biggest of them all.
Gabe Sagherian is a student at West Chester University. He can be reached at GS889554@wcupa.edu.