Sean Spicer didn’t look much like the young, local musicians who normally perform at the Pearl Street Warehouse. But like the baby-faced guitarist from the Kevin Gordon Trio, Spicer came here Tuesday night with visions of his next big gig.
The former White House press secretary kicked off a book tour for his new West Wing memoir “The Briefing” at the trendy D.C. Waterfront music venue. He signed books and posed for pictures with attendees for much of the night, while about 100 invited guests sipped cocktails, munched on tater tots and chatted over the sound of a non-distinct rock beat, holding copies of the book under their arm.
Bounding onto the small bandstand in front of a red neon sign, Spicer had nothing but smiles for the friendly crowd. Speaking on stage with moderator Katie Pavlich, editor of the conservative website Townhall, Spicer offered up personal anecdotes, joking asides and profligate references to his wife, Rebecca.
It was a fitting setting for the launch of “The Briefing,” in which Spicer aims to reintroduce himself to the public after the end of his rocky tenure in the White House last year. In his six months at the podium, Spicer took flack from reporters for his false or misleading defenses of the president, while late-night comedians caricatured him as the press corps’ barking-mad disciplinarian.
The memoir puts a positive and personal spin on his tenure as press secretary. Copies of the book were strewn across tables, and a TV screen near the stage displayed a blurb of the book from the president: “A story well told with both heart and knowledge. Really good, go get it!”
On Tuesday night, Spicer poked fun at some of his memorable gaffes, including his very first press briefing after Trump’s inauguration, when he railed at the media’s coverage of inaugural crowd sizes. He even made a glancing criticism of his old boss with a joke about his past work promoting free trade.
But, as in his new memoir, Spicer largely defended his old boss and his time in the briefing room. He took aim at the media for what he said was its hostility toward him and the Trump administration’s agenda.
“To be told over and over and over again, we’re going to nitpick this, it isn’t good enough, this is why it isn’t real, it gets to you,” Spicer said. “And it gets to your psyche.”
He lamented what he said was the left’s lack of civility. “They want to snuff out a lot of discussion. I don’t think that’s good. I think we can be fierce partisans, but civil and respectful to each other.” The common retort that “you guys started it,” he said, is “like eight-year-olds.”
Even before waitresses served the first round of tater tots, the book had already taken flak in reviews. ABC chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl likened it to Spicer’s tenure as press secretary: “short, littered with inaccuracies and offering up one consistent theme: Mr. Trump can do no wrong.”
But the White House press corps isn’t Spicer’s audience anymore. Now he’s reportedly out looking for his own TV show — and as he sets out on his book tour, he’s getting used to telling the story his own way.