Is Sean Spicer's next stop a PR agency? CEOs are split

The chief executive of the world's largest communications agency responded with a flat out "no." Others were more nuanced when asked if they would hire the former White House press secretary.

NEW YORK: Sean Spicer will walk out of the White House a free agent at the end of next month, and he may find a limited market in the agency world for his services.

The CEOs of several major PR agencies said they would not hire Spicer once his White House tenure ends. Others said they are keeping an open mind about the former press secretary.

"No, he’s not for us. I’ll leave it there," said Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, declining to elaborate further.

MWWPR CEO Michael Kempner said he would take a pass on Spicer — for now. For Kempner, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser, to consider hiring him, Spicer would first have to rehabilitate his reputation.

"He would have to show that he can come to the table with a higher level of integrity than that shown in the past six months," Kempner said. "He was known as a good strategist and competent comms practitioner prior to becoming press secretary. I suspect he has talents we’ve not seen."

Spicer resigned on Friday, reportedly in protest of President Donald Trump’s choice for White House communications director: Anthony Scaramucci. Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of two-time presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, was promoted to replace Spicer.

Spicer resigned amid low approval ratings for Trump, whose numbers are suffering amid questions about Russia’s activity during the 2016 presidential election and difficulty passing a healthcare bill through Congress.

Other agency leaders were more understanding of the difficulties of Spicer’s last job. Purple Strategies CEO Steve McMahon said Spicer’s connections on both sides of the aisle will bode well for him.

"They understood he had an impossible job," he said. "He will definitely land on his feet."

McMahon added that he would hire Spicer for his skills as a strategist and communicator, as well as his inside knowledge of an administration that is difficult to navigate.
"I don’t think he should’ve ever taken the job," McMahon said. "But he did as well as he could have under enormous circumstances. You could’ve predicted the president would send him out there to do and say things that would not be credible."

McMahon plugged an impromptu job advertisement, saying, "Sean, call me. We’re Purple. You’d love it here."

The CEO of a top 10 PR agency also said he would not rule out the possibility of adding Spicer to his executive roster. He said Spicer had no choice but to mirror the combative style of the president.

"I think the guy has shown balls of steel, and that there’s a lot of people out there that admire that," said the agency boss, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "In this profession, it’s easy to defend certain people. Sometimes it takes a lot more to defend the indefensible, and there’s absolutely a place for people like him. There’s far too much bland in our business, and he’s anything but."

Spicer gained critics across the political spectrum on his first full day on the job, when he made fantastical claims about the size of the crowd at the president’s inauguration during his first press briefing.

However, the chief executive noted Spicer was also speaking to an audience beyond the media establishment.

"He violated the trust for many Americans; for other people, he was showing a finger of contempt to media, and they fully support it," the CEO said. "This business tries to hold itself as whiter than white, and I’m not sure we’re that."

While McMahon was bullish on Spicer’s potential to leverage his access to the administration. Other agency leaders expressed their doubts.

"I can’t imagine that Sean Spicer enjoyed his short tenure as White House press secretary," said Brad MacAfee, via email. "In this profession, you hope that your client will embrace your consultation and for the ability to do your job with high-integrity. From the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like either existed."

Kempner expressed sympathy for the "very tough position" Spicer was in, but ultimately put the blame on his shoulders alone.

"In many ways, I feel sorry for him, but he made that choice," Kempner said. "He did not have to choose to go in front of the American people and fabricate the news and lie. It was his decision, whether his integrity or his proximity to the president was more important."

Spicer could not be immediately reached for comment.

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