After critics and the general public alike were up in arms about former White House press secretary Sean Spicer‘s cameo at the Emmy Awards on Sunday, the beleaguered Spicer offered up some advice: lighten up.
The Associated Press got a hold of Spicer while he was on an airplane (presumably on the tarmac), and he seemed to have had a great time at the Emmys.
“I was surprised at how nice people were to me,” he said. “Even the people who I know don’t agree with me politically.”
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He also said that people are taking his cameo far too seriously.
“People are reading too much into this,” he said.
Spicer showed up at the Emmy Awards ceremony stage as a surprise guest, a cameo apparently devised by Emmys host Stephen Colbert. They arranged to maximize the surprise factor through Chris Licht, the Colbert producer who knew Spicer from his background in news.
Colbert set up the joke by saying there was no way of knowing how many people would be watching the Emmys, then Spicer wheeled out behind a podium to say “this will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world.” (A clear reference to Spicer’s first White House press room appearance, when he argued about the size of President Donald Trump‘s Inauguration Day crowd.)
In an unfortunate parallel, Emmy viewership on Sunday nearly tied last year with the smallest ever for the television awards show; the 2017 TV audience numbers were slightly above that low bar.
Colbert and Spicer didn’t anticipate (or didn’t care to anticipate) the intense negative backlash that followed. Trump critics especially seized on it, calling it an attempt to “normalize” Spicer.
“The message of his presence was not only that we can all laugh at his service and sycophancy in the Trump administration, but that he’s willing to laugh with us,” wrote Frank Bruni in a column for The New York Times titled “The Shameful Embrace of Sean Spicer at the Emmys.”
On morning talk show The View, Joy Behar said that if Spicer and other Trump surrogates apologize to the American people, “then I’ll have fun with you, Sean.”
Liberal commentator Keith Olbermann tweeted that the Emmys lost its credibility by lionizing Spicer. Even a Republican strategist, Kevin Madden, warned on CNN that Spicer should be wary of equating notoriety with respect.
Indeed, Spicer did the rounds at Emmys afterparties, posing with multiple celebrities and fans.
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) September 18, 2017
— joe mande (@JoeMande) September 18, 2017
— Nick de Semlyen (@NickdeSemlyen) September 18, 2017
Man, I didn't even see the Alec Baldwin one. https://t.co/K6YdIYRcYt
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) September 19, 2017
Some fans of Colbert were also bewildered by the appearance. The Late Show host has soared in the ratings this year with comedy that has been sharply critical of Trump and his team. He should know the dangers of appearing too chummy: late-night competitor Jimmy Fallon still hasn’t recovered from the bad feelings engendered when he tousled Trump’s hair when the then-candidate appeared on the Tonight show last year.
After Spicer’s appearance onstage, Colbert played further into the joke. He said that Robert De Niro, who appeared as Bernie Madoff in the HBO movie Wizard of Lies, had actually been the star of The Sean Spicer Story.
Caroline Framke at Vox wrote that it was “incredibly disappointing” to see Colbert joking with Spicer.
“It went against everything Colbert purports to do on his fiercely pointed Late Show, and retroactively sucked the air out of any biting Trump jokes he tried to make in his opening monologue,” she said.
For his part, late-night host James Corden, who was one of the celebrities who posed with Spicer, agreed with the public’s sentiment.
“Anyone ever have that feeling when you get a little drunk and then wake up the next morning and think, ‘Oh God, who did I kiss last night?'” said Corden on The Late Late Show Monday night. “It’s a bit like that. To be fair, everyone was kissing a** last night at the Emmys. I just happened to kiss the biggest one there.”
“Understandably, some people have been disappointed by this photo. In truth, I’m disappointed by it as well,” he continued. “I have been reading a lot of harsh comments on Twitter today, and I hear you loud and clear, truly, I do.”
— With files from The Associated Press