With last week’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and all the communications chaos that followed, reports have surfaced that President Trump may be pursuing a shakeup among some core members of his team, including oft-embattled press secretary Sean Spicer. It’s somewhat ironic that in the aftermath of a public relations mess largely precipitated and exacerbated by the president himself, Spicer’s handling of this incident may be what ends up severing the ties that bind.
Although the Comey firing, and the process leading up to it, is the latest and most pronounced of the Trump administration’s communicative missteps, it’s not the first instance where Spicer’s been trotted out to do a near-impossible job. And yet despite the degree of difficulty, the clear lack of trust and coordination between the president and his communications staff suggests that changes are sorely needed.
Notwithstanding the many tweets Trump sends out which can complicate the White House’s communications efforts, Spicer’s general approach has, since the beginning, been bewildering. For an RNC and Washington PR veteran, Spicer frequently takes the unnecessary step of owning information long before he’s in possession of all the facts. Remember the debate about inaugural crowd sizes? He came out swinging with a lie that could be disproven with simple photographs.
What’s followed that initial self-inflicted damage to the press secretary’s credibility has been nearly four months of a man failing to understand the basic duties of his job. Regardless of the very real enmity between the Trump administration and the media, Spicer’s zealous devotion to the most flattering presentation of reality for the administration leads him to engage in needless debating at best, and make offensive gaffes at worst.
Either way, Spicer’s inability to keep from creating a new story based upon his own uneven performance has led to this White House having virtually no “spot-free” weeks regarding media relations since it took office.
From a distance, Spicer’s hiring made sense most as a moderating presence. A figure who could bring nuance to Trump’s own communication style: A brash truth-teller whose brashness sometimes causes him to run afoul of the truth.