Is the End Near for Sean Spicer's Famous TV Press Briefings?
The spokesman, an early star of the administration, hasn't done an on-camera press briefing since June 26.
Depending on how you look at it, Sean Spicer became either famous or infamous in the early weeks of the Trump administration, thanks to his fiery and combative exchanges with reporters at the daily White House press briefings.
But, while Spicer was an almost daily presence in the briefing room (and on YouTube, for the thousands of people who tuned in to watch) early on, he's been scarce of late. When the White House has held press briefings, they've generally been off-camera, and they've typically been conducted by his deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
"You'll notice he's sort of, kind of, disappeared the last few weeks," New York Times Magazine journalist Mark Leibovich said on Morning Joe Wednesday.
Sanders was asked by a reporter in an off-camera briefing Wednesday if she will continue to be the primary press briefer or if Spicer would be returning to the podium. She didn't have a clear answer. "Ahh, you know, I think we're all just trying to do the very best job we can every day," Sanders told the reporter. "And sometimes it may be me. Sometimes it may be Sean."
Either way, it's been a strange turn of events. The White House has not formally announced Sanders as the primary briefer, and the White House press office did not respond to a question about whether Spicer would ever do another briefing.
"I think he's been done with them for a long time," said Brian Karem, a Maryland journalist and White House correspondent for Playboy. Karem, who went viral for a June 27 on-camera altercation with Sanders, would not venture a guess as to why Spicer has been sidelined. "I don't think anybody has any idea what's going to go on in the White House," he said.
Frank Sesno, a former CNN White House correspondent who interviewed Spicer on-stage in late January, at the height of his fame, said he doesn't know whether Spicer will reappear.
"But the way he has been treated is unclear and undignified for both Spicer and the media," Sesno told The Hollywood Reporter. "What is his role? Is he a 'spokesman,' which suggests a public presence? If not, what is his role? Why have the changes been made, and what's the problem with actually explaining them to the public? This issue, as with so many in this White House, is defined by defensiveness, lack of transparency, shifting sands and what appears to be a disregard for the reputation of a dedicated and very public servant."
While Spicer had a penchant for occasionally straying into dangerous, off-message territory in his briefings, Sanders has generally not made news. Still, she doesn't have Spicer's flare, and with the briefings primarily being off-camera these days, the event is rapidly losing interest to the broader public. This might be just fine, as far as the administration is concerned.
When asked at his June 20 briefing about whether his role at the White House is changing, Spicer replied, "I'm right here. So you can keep taking your selfies and selfie photos."