Spinning is something all of us in political public relations do. It’s our job. We take a bit of bad news, and try to rationalize to the media why it’s not so bad. Or we take a bit of good news for an opponent, and find the dark cloud we can place over it. Sometimes it comes off as ridiculous. Sometimes it works. But, spinning is taking the truth and working from there.
Sean Spicer lied.
Sometimes his lies seemed petty, like saying the inauguration was the most watched, ever. Sometimes they were lies about important issues, aimed at wrecking voting rights and democracy, like his patently false claim that there was a report that showed 14 percent of people who voted were non-citizens. Sometimes his lies were offensive – like his claim that not even Hitler sunk to the level of gassing his own people – as he tried to make the case for action in Syria (a lie he only backed off of once reporters pressed him on it).
But Sean Spicer lied. A lot. That’s not the same as spinning. That’s not taking a truthful situation, and adding an argument (sometimes an even convoluted one) to make it seem good for you, or bad for your opponents. That’s not even cherry picking some actual facts.
What he did was use one of the most powerful podiums in the world to put out patently false information, knowing that it will be broadcast out, and a sizable chunk of the public will buy those lies and spread them.
Just a few nights ago, Spicer essentially admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that he knew the claims about Trump’s inauguration size were lies, but he got up there and said it anyway. He talked about doing it in “other areas.” He didn’t apologize for it, either. In fact, he defended it, as just doing his job.
Apparently, that’s something to laugh about and forget, if last night’s Emmys are an indication. The crowd roared with glee, as Spicer rolled out a faux-podium and poked fun of his lie on Trump’s inauguration size, by declaring the Emmys were the most watched ever – period.
You have to wonder how much they would have laughed if he joked, “Was 14 percent of your balloting made up of illegal aliens voting illegally, like the US election was?”
Or if he joked about Hitler not gassing his own people.
Nonetheless, the Spicer reclamation project is underway, and lies are forgiven, without any kind of apology, or setting the record straight about the real truth.
His lies linger out there, as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach leads a voter suppression effort under the guise of “election integrity,” powered, in part, by the lies Spicer spread, before. Nazi flags flew in Charlottesville, flapping in the lie of Hitler not gassing his own people. The people flying them emboldened by Spicer’s other comment that criticism from Jews was “pathetic,” when they noted that Trump’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement didn’t mention Jews, at all.
Donald Trump once quipped that he could stand out in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone, and he wouldn’t pay a political cost. Spicer seems to be proving that he could lie about things big and small, and he could get invited to the Emmys, get a gig at Harvard, and make crazy money on a speaking tour.
I have to wonder why I even bother restraining myself to just spinning. Apparently, there is no real cost if you lie. There’s no real cost if I use the media to carry forth bad and patently false information that benefits my clients and their goals. Many people will believe the lies. Then I can just make a joke about it, and be absolved, without ever correcting those lies, or apologizing for making them.
If the ends justify the means, and all is forgiven, why am I restricting myself to truth-based communications, anymore? Why tell the truth?
I’ll do so because I have a conscience, and because it’s the right thing to do. But there’s no inherent professional benefit to it. That’s what the Emmys told me, last night.
That’s no laughing matter.