Trumpstagram is Slate’s pop-up blog that close-reads Instagram accounts in the Trump orbit.
Just a couple of days before he officially started as the White House press secretary in January 2017, Sean Spicer snapped a picture of his television as he was appearing on CNN. He wrote a simple caption. “It humbling to think I have this honor,” he wrote. It was a big moment, probably the proudest moment of his career, and perhaps it’s understandable that he was typing fast. But that typo, which commenters were quick to point out, might have been a small harbinger of what was to come in the following months.
Only a few short months later, on July 25, he posted a poorly composed picture of POTUS and FLOTUS boarding Air Force One. Judging from the rest of his account, Spicer doesn’t take particularly nice photos, but this one was a little extra off-center and zoomed out. Maybe we can attribute the sloppiness to the fact that it came just days after Trump had named Anthony Scaramucci to the post of communications director, prompting Spicer to step down as press secretary. And then there was the caption: “This will never get old,” Spicer wrote, a strange and sad choice for someone on his way out the door. It would never get old, but it would soon be over.
If you didn’t know that Spicer had stepped down, though, a quick glance at his Instagram page might lead you to assume that he’s still working for the president today. In between pictures of him just being a regular New England guy (spending his summers in Newport, Rhode Island; drinking locally brewed beer; listening to his radio station of choice, Yacht Rock Radio—which, by the way, is real), he’s at a political rally, standing in front of a backdrop of himself at the White House press podium. A similar podium photo is still his profile pic. He’s staying somewhat regularly at the Trump Hotels, always sure to lob a compliment Trump’s way on Insta.
One of his most recent posts is a shout out from Trump himself congratulating him on his upcoming book, which, of course, is an inside look on Spicer’s time in the White House. A look at his Instagram reveals that Spicer is constantly trying to prove, either to himself or to us, that despite no longer working for the president, he’s still an insider, he’s still in the know, and whatever knowledge or insight he has, it’s something we should want.
As you may remember, Spicer was not exactly great at his job. He got easily flustered up on the podium when reporters threw tough questions at him. He would get defensive, or rather, combative, like that time he told a reporter to “stop shaking her head.” Whether you think the job of the press secretary is to inform the American people, or to deflect criticism away from the president and his White House, Spicer never seemed to excel at either. Rather he did the exact opposite: We have him to thank for Kellyanne Conway’s invented phrase “alternative facts,” which she coined after his dismal performance claiming that Trump’s inauguration had received the largest audience ever. But despite his short tenure, which only lasted for a total of 182 days, and the chaos that it resulted in, he is still trying to milk it for everything he can.
Spicer still makes semi-regular appearances on Fox & Friends and other Fox programs, giving commentary on the moves the president is making. And there’s his book, The Briefing: Politics, The Press, and The President, which got a co-sign from Sean Hannity and is set to be released later this month. He even has a podcast, advertised in a pinned post at the top of his Instagram page, which opens with tape of him fielding questions from the White House press briefing room. (It’s basically an hour of him discussing news and politics with conservative commentator Katie Pavlich, nothing essential.)
When the original cast of White House administration was selected all those months ago, there was a swirling concern around whether they would even be employable after they left. But, as Spicer’s Instagram underscores, it seems abundantly clear that a year and a half later, this concern was amusingly overblown: In enough circles, having worked for the Trump administration is a badge of honor. For “former White House press secretary” Sean Spicer (yes, it’s still in his bio), it’s clear that this is the only job title he’s interested in having at the moment.
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