Why outrage over Sean Spicer’s casting on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ is a double standard
Washington is full of liars: President Trump and his minions, the Clintons and theirs, Joe Biden. But is Sean Spicer a special breed of liar?
Spicer was Trump’s press secretary and will soon be a contestant for the next season of “Dancing With the Stars.”
The apoplexy was immediate: calls for ABC-Disney boycotts by Democratic activists, the Independent demanded Spicer be put on a “permanent blacklist” — even Variety, which still exists, got in on that hot outrage action.
Why all the fury?
As Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC once wrote, Spicer is “a profoundly stupid liar working for a profoundly stupid liar.”
And O’Donnell is worth consulting on the question. The finest piece of work he ever produced was a 1998 essay for New York Magazine about political spin, headlined “The Frequent Liars Club.” Who were those liars? Bill Clinton sycophants, mostly: Paul Begala, James Carville and Mike McCurry.
O’Donnell, who was a terrific writer before he was a television mediocrity, was especially tough on McCurry. McCurry had been the spokesman for Bob Kerrey’s campaign in the 1992 Democratic primary and had scourged Clinton for his dishonesty in the matter of Gennifer Flowers. But the fates are cruel in Washington, and McCurry went on to become Clinton’s own press secretary, entrusted with furthering his dishonesty in the matter of Gennifer Flowers: lying about the lying, and then lying about the lying about the lying.
“McCurry insisted there was nothing inconsistent in Clinton’s 1992 denial of an affair with Flowers and his rumored 1998 under-oath admission of an affair with Flowers,” O’Donnell reported at the time, “and no one in the White House press corps laughed. None of them found it at all strange that a well-known disbeliever of Clinton in 1992 was telling them they should believe Clinton’s 1992 and 1998 stories. They did laugh the day McCurry began his briefing by saying, ‘Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the theater of the absurd.’ They thought that was a joke.”
Where are those liars now? Begala is today ensconced at CNN and a Georgetown professorship; Carville went on to teach at Tulane and host a CNN program; McCurry is now an éminence grise in Washington and a senior administrator in the United Methodist Church.
But, oh — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — Sean Spicer is going to waltz/tango/foxtrot on a reality TV show.
The neo-Victorian ladies and gentlemen of Washington are having a fainting spell.
Patting himself on the back for being “earnest” and “high-minded,” New York Times television critic James Poniewozik lamented that the dopey television program would help Trump’s former press secretary “dry-clean his reputation.” Spicer’s reputation is stained in the same way as that of everybody else who has chosen to associate himself with Trump. But, Poniewozik’s practically yogic self-congratulation notwithstanding, this is not being “high-minded” but being the opposite: petty and vindictive.
Poniewozik is not exactly a no-holds-barred truth-teller himself when it comes to presidents. He still delicately refers to the Gennifer Flowers episode as a “reported affair” in spite of the audiotapes and other evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty in the matter. Spicer can at least avail himself of Christopher Buckley’s “Yuppie Nuremberg Defense” — “I was only paying the mortgage!” — but Poniewozik, whose profession is plumbing the depths of the shallow (“‘Orange Is the New Black’ Taught Us What Netflix Was For”) spins for fun.
Donald Trump is a liar. He is dishonest and a cause of dishonesty in those around him. So was Bill Clinton. So is Hillary Clinton. So was Barack Obama. The Democrats are at the moment trying to decide whether to nominate a woman who got a professional leg up pretending to be an Indian or to instead choose a serial plagiarist who has lied about the events leading to the death of his wife and daughter. About 90 percent of Republicans are on board with Donald J. Trump, Scourge of Copenhagen, Would-Be Deliverer of Greenland and The Chosen One.
And O’Donnell, chronicler of the “frequent liars club,” is today a colleague of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s at MSNBC. Such is his high regard for honesty.
That’s the kind of “high-mindedness” we could do without.
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