Little did I know when I interviewed White House press secretary and President Trump communications director Sean Spicer last Friday evening that he would soon become one of the best-known people on the planet courtesy of Melissa McCarthy’s skit on Saturday Night Live.
It meant my Sunday was spent hurriedly writing up the piece and getting it ready to publish as soon as the Super Bowl noise had died down—an event Spicer attended along with Vice President Mike Pence and one he eventually thoroughly enjoyed as a Patriots fan.
The fact that there were "alternative facts/Sean Spicer" memes proliferating on social media through the first half, when the Atlanta Falcons were seemingly cruising to victory, spoke to the new-found fame of the former Republican National Committee communications director.
According to those who have worked with him in the past, Spicer is essentially a decent guy who has found himself in an almost-impossible situation trying to present a coherent narrative for an administration that so often goes completely off message via the president’s Twitter feed.
This week provided many more prime examples, with Trump using his personal Twitter handle to criticize retailer Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s fashion line from its outlets and sending out a warning to judges who rejected the Justice Department’s travel ban appeal that he will "SEE YOU IN COURT."
Spicer is already doing double duty by covering the White House press job and the president’s communications director role, and the truth is that however you think he has handled it, he is in an impossible situation. And, let’s be honest, after McCarthy’s evisceration on SNL last Saturday, who is going to rush to step up to replace him?
Communications professionals all know the spokesperson shouldn’t become the story. They also know that the confrontational relationship with the media adopted by Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and the Trump administration is unlikely to be productive in the long term.
Trump counselor Conway has proved herself a canny and skilled operator in the media, but the 20-minute interview she did on CNN with Jake Tapper this week suggested the luster was beginning to wear off her shtick as well.
I’ve been in Houston, Texas, the past couple of days spending time with the agency pros of the PRConsultants Group, some of who have significant experience in the world of political communications.
While maybe secretly enjoying the spectacle playing out before them, no one thinks this is a good representation of the communications art or reflecting well on the office of the president of the United States.
My hope is that Spicer will settle into his role and fade away from being the story.
But given that Alec Baldwin has been allocated the whole show this Saturday night, who knows what is in store for us next on SNL and how that is going to play out as a wider narrative.
Like I say, it’s become an impossible job.
Steve Barrett is editor-in-chief of PRWeek.