The White House: 5 Teachings of Sean Spicer
Since 1977, all the White House Press Secretaries who take possession of their office find the same thing in the back of their closet: a bullet-proof jacket. This gift from their predecessor is representative of the range of questioning that the Press Secretary of the new president will face on a daily basis.
By assenting to the position of spokesman for the Trump administration, Sean Spicer has been the envy of many political communicators in the United States. Yet he finds himself in a unique position, that of representing a narcissistic, impulsive and unpredictable President. Spicer must now defend and qualify daily the actions of a president who speaks at any hour of the day on Twitter, without consulting his team and without sparing his allies or his enemies.
Sean Spicer certainly does not have a traditional relationship with political correspondents in Washington. We will remember for a long time the "alternative facts" presented during his very first press briefing. More recently, we learned that several important media were excluded from the daily press briefing on February 24th. The New York Times, CNN, Politico, and a few others were directly in the wake of a speech by the President to the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which he again accused his critics of distributing false information or "fake news".
This unprecedented affront to the public's right to information has not been left unanswered. That same evening, an editorial of the NYT pointed unreservedly to the lack of experience of the entourage of the president as explanation to its blunders. A more trained team would probably have convinced the president to nuance his remarks and managed to spare the essential relations that the White House must imperatively maintain with the press.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM SEAN SPICER?
THE FIRST IMPRESSION FRAMES THE WHOLE DISCUSSION
From the first press briefing he gave at the White House, Sean Spicer was arrogant and virulent towards journalists. Despite the humorous tone that he has been trying to adopt since then, it is certainly these first traits of character that will characterize him in the future and that will continue to make please humourists like those of Saturday Night Live.
FIRST-HAND INFORMATION IS REQUIRED
By affirming and then repeating without question that the inauguration of President Trump was the “largest-watched inauguration ever" and accusing the media of having deliberately cropped images of the event to demonstrate the opposite, Spicer projected the image of a man who had not validated the facts he presented to the media. A simple search would have saved him from starting his defensive mandate.
COMMUNICATIONS REQUIRE A CHAIN OF COMMAND
Several White House figures have spoken on behalf of President Trump. This unusual situation leads to contradictory messages if the director of communications, a position that Spicer held until very recently, does not establish a clear strategy and well-articulated press lines. The interviews given by Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon only add to the complexity of Spicer's task.
WE MUST RESIST THE TEMPTATION OF "MAKE OURSELVES HAPPY"
Whatever organization we must communicate on behalf of, we quickly learn that aggression and animosity do not lead to anything. The accusing words and the acrimonious tone of President Trump and Sean Spicer seem to be very liberating for these two characters, but they do not improve the image the world has of them, on the contrary. They would both benefit by cultivating a bond of trust and mutual respect with journalists.
CRITICS OF ALLIES ARE WORSE THAN ONES FROM OPPONENTS
In the short or long term, Sean Spicer will have to adjust his message and attitude if he wants to keep his position. The events of February 24 did nothing to calm the journalists and the next few days will be most interesting for anyone interested in politics and freedom of the press. Interestingly, the former Republican presidential candidate and current Arizona senator, John McCain, declared on February 20, on CNN, that "when we look at history, the first thing dictators do, is to muzzle the press. "
If Sean Spicer does not need a real bulletproof vest, he'll think twice before going back into the White House press room without having at least one bullet proof statement…