Today's media outrage: Spicey goes to Hollywood

The question all of America is asking this morning: Do we really have to listen to Ben farking Rhodes lecture us about not lying to the public?

Political media is aghast that a man who lied knowingly for Trump as press secretary would not only be granted a walk-on at the Emmys (right as he’s launching a career on the lecture circuit too), would not only make light of one of the most notorious lies he told in government, but would be received rapturously by Trump-hating Hollywood liberals. James Corden, host of CBS’s “Late Late Show,” got a selfie of him literally kissing Spicer after the show. He had to get in line:

Colbert is an outspoken opponent of President Trump, and he doesn’t fret about the perception that he’s “normalizing” Spicer. “Donald Trump normalized Spicer,” a source involved in the production said.

Both sources who spoke with CNN on Monday morning marveled at the way Spicer was mobbed by Emmys attendees both at the awards show and at the parties afterward.

“He could barely eat at the Governor’s Ball, he was so popular,” one of the sources said.

Why’d Spicey get a pass from celebrities? Anyone else in Trump’s West Wing would have been received icily. Kellyanne Conway, who’s also attacked regularly as a liar, would have been booed offstage. Steve Bannon might not have made it out of the building alive. Spicer, on the other hand, benefits from having had conspicuous distance put between himself and POTUS from the day he was hired. Trump brought him on reluctantly, at Reince Priebus’s urging, then seemed to do nothing but grumble about him, right down to his taste in apparel. He famously excluded Spicer when a White House delegation met the Pope, then began holding semi-public auditions for Spicer’s replacement. In the end Spicer ended up effectively demoted, reduced to mostly off-camera briefings in rotation with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And now, unlike virtually everyone else (except Priebus) who was there on day one, he’s gone — of his own volition. Even if you didn’t sympathize with him, it was plain that he wasn’t part of Trump’s inner circle.

He was a mouthpiece for a difficult client prone to undermining him in public statements. Every celebrity in the audience knows what it’s like to work with flacks, how often they’re tasked to go out and push BS they privately know is BS. They may have given Spicer a pass partly for that reason too. And don’t underestimate the fact that he was hapless in the job as a key reason for his image rehabilitation. Even when Spicer tried to put on a show by being combative with the press, it was clear he was doing it at Trump’s behest, not because he’s belligerent by nature. He never came off as sinister; far more often he was pitiful, which I’m sure is why the gag he was involved in last night referenced the lie about crowd size in his first press briefing after the inauguration. That was Spicer’s defining moment: It was so obviously untrue, and so obviously done to soothe Trump’s fragile ego, that he seemed pathetic more so than malevolent. You can disdain him for having been willing to tell a lie that embarrassing in the first place, but the embarrassment is key to why he was forgiven last night. He was comedy material as press secretary from the word go, as Melissa McCarthy could tell you.

Besides, since when are flacks who told notorious lies for the government punished by being ostracized afterward?

He humanized himself *and* he made a joke of Trump’s willingness to tell transparent lies by mocking his infamous presser over crowd size. This is as close as Spicer will probably ever get to admitting how ridiculous that was. He’ll never be part of “the Resistance” (I think) but this was a gag designed for their amusement at Trump’s expense. No wonder they hooted at it.

Ed has a post coming up on the awful ratings for last night’s show so I’ll keep my take here on that short. I think the fall-off in most ratings, from ESPN to the Emmys, has much more to do with declining TV viewership generally and the explosion of competitor streaming services than it does to a political backlash. And the Emmys may have a special burden, as my pal Karl smartly points out:

Thirty years ago you could watch the Emmys and know all of the shows and actors because you watched most of them yourself. There were three channels. Last night, among the 16 major awards (best actor/actress and best show in different categories), just three came from broadcast networks. All of the others were from pay TV, mostly Hulu, Netflix, and HBO. If you’re someone who can’t afford those services or you’re an older viewer who hasn’t adapted to streaming yet, how were you supposed to gauge which winners were deserving last night? You missed out on nearly every show that won. Why watch?