The Road to the White House – Sean Spicer
The Road to the White House – Sean Spicer
Not many people can say they’ve worked a harder job than Sean Spicer has… Renowned Wall Street investor Charles Mizrahi talks to the former White House Press Secretary about President Trump, the mainstream media and the future of America.
- From Rhode Island to the White House (00:01:14)
- The Beginning of the Trump Era (00:04:46)
- Becoming Press Secretary (00:08:34)
- First Day on the Job (00:12:37)
- The American Press (00:15:08)
- A Front-Row Seat to History (00:23:50)
- A House Divided (00:30:23)
- The Truth About Trump (00:33:09)
- The Next Chapter (00:35:41)
- Dancing with the Stars (00:36:21)
- Disclosing Connection (00:39:03)
- Moving Forward (00:42:50)
- Final Thoughts (00:44:44)
Sean Spicer never dreamt of working in the White House… but that’s exactly where he found himself. As Press Secretary to President Trump, Spicer was thrust into the spotlight. Using his straight-forward approach to politics, Spicer now writes books drawing upon his personal and political experience, and hosts his own talk show, Spicer & Co. He is also active on his website, SeanSpicer.com.
Before You Leave:
Charles Mizrahi: My guest today is Sean Spicer. Spicer grew up in Rhode Island in a working class family. The closest he ever got to the White House was standing outside the gates as a tourist. So, it was a pretty surreal event when President Trump called him at the end of December 2015 and asked him to be press secretary and White House communications director.
Charles Mizrahi: After leaving the White House, Spicer’s written two books and now hosts a news talk show, Spicer & Co., on Newsmax TV.
Charles Mizrahi: I recently sat down with Sean and asked him how a working class kid without any contacts or connections gets into politics and becomes press secretary. I also asked him what he learned about Donald J. Trump on a personal level that most people would have no idea about.
Charles Mizrahi: Sean, thanks so much for being on the show. I greatly appreciate it.
Sean Spicer: You bet, Charles.
Charles Mizrahi: So, how does a kid from Rhode Island … I didn’t know you were born in New York, right? You’re really a New Yorker by birth.
Sean Spicer: Don’t go there, man. I’m a Red Sox and Patriots fan. I was born in a hospital there and they got me out.
Charles Mizrahi: They got you out quick. So, you couldn’t be a Mets fan or Yankee fan, but you went right to Boston. Alright, we’ll give you that.
Charles Mizrahi: So, how does a kid growing up in Rhode Island get to work for the most powerful person in the world? Tell me about that. When you were growing up in Rhode Island, did you say, “My aspirations are to be the press secretary and work in the White House”?
Sean Spicer: No, and my aspirations had nothing to do with politics, either. My dad sold boats for a living, and I kind of thought maybe I’d be a lawyer or in sales of some sort … And like so many things, it was a trial and error period.
Sean Spicer: We didn’t grow up with a lot of money. And so one of the teachers in high school taking a real interest in me — it was the late 1980s — and he had suggested that if I really took an interest in Japanese language and maybe got a minor in economics, that I could really write my own ticket because Japan was on the ascent. And so I thought, “OK. I want to make a lot of money. I want to be able to provide for myself and do better.”
Sean Spicer: I went to college, and for two semesters, I took intensive Japanese language and I was horrible at it. Not just was a horrible at it, but I got called into the dean’s office and was told, “I don’t know what your translation mode is, but a D in English is a D in Japanese. It doesn’t look like you’re doing too well with this major.”
Sean Spicer: So, I had taken a government course and I found it really interesting. I always talk about it as like my political awakening. I hadn’t been really involved in politics. I hadn’t really thought a lot about politics. But like so many professors, the guy was really liberal, and I started to question myself like, “I’m not really sure that I agree that that’s the role of government. I don’t know that what he’s talking about makes sense.” And so I started to volunteer.
Sean Spicer: I volunteered in the Connecticut state legislature. I drove to Hartford a couple of times a week. I volunteered on a local campaign. And then, the cliff note version is, I like to say that it was like joining the minor leagues. You just keep playing the game hoping to get called up to the pros. And I worked for congressmen and campaigns from Pennsylvania to New Jersey to Florida, and just kind of worked my way up the ladder.
Sean Spicer: And then, I was actually mobilized in the Navy in 2009. I spent 18 months on active duty. And when I was getting off, I really wanted to go do the corporate thing. My wife and I were really convinced that this was a chance to start a family. And again, the quick version is that I got a call to meet with the new chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, and they were looking to put a team together for him. We hit it off. And two years became four years. Four years became six.
Sean Spicer: And when the Trump campaign was happening, there weren’t a lot of people that wanted to be associated with it, to put it mildly. And I had always been of the philosophy that when the voters pick a nominee, that our job was to support that nominee full throated. And I did and I developed a good relationship with then Mr. Trump.
Charles Mizrahi: What year was that?
Sean Spicer: That was 2015 into 2016.
Charles Mizrahi: You were part of the RNC establishment, right? So you were part and parcel of that. And the RNC, at that point — definitely when he first started — was not a fan of Donald Trump.
Sean Spicer: Well, the RNC is a building. It’s like a league. And so there were people in it that were clearly not fans of his. We had a bunch of people that resigned and left.
Charles Mizrahi: But why did they resign and leave? What pissed them off so much?
Sean Spicer: Well, it’s the same reason that you have never-Trumpers now and people who are part of the Lincoln Project. I think they have some issue, mostly stylistically, with Trump. And then you also had people, like me, that are institutionalists that believe that this is what the RNC is for— for the voters and the grassroots voters within our party to choose a nominee. And then you kind of work as hard as you can to get that person elected. But, yeah … You had a range of folks.
Sean Spicer: So, I think you had a lot of folks that literally were massive Trump fans, you had people that couldn’t stand the guy and then you had a lot of people in the middle.
Charles Mizrahi: And what did you gravitate to? What did you like about him that you said, you know, “This guy … He could be president.” Because in the beginning, it did not look good for him.
Sean Spicer: No. And look, I want to remind you that it wasn’t that I gravitated toward him at that time. I mean, because I believe in neutrality, I believe that the job wasn’t for Washington to pick a nominee or to tip the scale. It was for voters to decide who it was. And then, it was our job to support them.
Sean Spicer: Once he became the nominee and I got to know him more, I appreciated the disruptive style that he had. I love the idea that he doesn’t take “that’s the way it’s supposed to be” as an answer, or “it’s always been this way.” To me, part of the problem is that these guys get stuck in this — and it’s on both sides and both parties — this mentality like a bunch of bureaucrats. “Well, you’re only supposed to do it this way. That’s how it’s been done.” And you go, “Oh, OK.” I mean, I think that’s a disservice to the American people.
Sean Spicer: Look at what the president has done on Operation Warp Speed. We’re about to bring two vaccines to market, both Moderna and Pfizer. And it’s because people kicked down barriers and said, “We’re going to get something done in the interest of the American people and not let a bunch of mid-level bureaucrats slow the process down.”
Charles Mizrahi: Is that the type of kid you were?
Sean Spicer: I mean, I always appreciated it. I think I’m fairly a rule-follower, but … I served 22 years in the Navy, and I can’t tell you how … There’s a reason that some things are bureaucratic — to prevent certain things from occurring. But then it also prevents a lot of good from occurring, and a lot of efficiency and effectiveness.
Charles Mizrahi: You got your master’s, I think, from the Naval War College … So, when did you join the Navy?
Sean Spicer: When I was 29 years old. We’d had a family history in it. My great grandfather had received the Medal of Honor. I’d always wanted to do something when I was in my teens and 20s. And I always had to be making money to pay for things … I mean, that’s how I grew up. If you want something, if you want to get by … And at that time, they didn’t have the programs that they do now in the military. It just didn’t work the way it does now. And when I was in my mid- to late 20s, a friend of mine said, “I know you always had an interest in doing this. There’s this program that you can get involved in.” I did it, and at 29 years old, got my commission.
Charles Mizrahi: So, you really size up the situation. You’re a straightforward guy. You see: Donald Trump is good for the party, good for the country. You get onto that bandwagon … And how do you get into your position? How does he hire you to be press secretary?
Sean Spicer: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. Because we won. And when you run a campaign — whether you’re running for student council or for president — you never run thinking, “I’m going to lose.” They can tell you the odds are one in a million, but you go, “Somehow, I’m going to be that one out of a million.” So, despite The New York Times and everybody else, we actually thought we had a path to victory.
Sean Spicer: So, he wins. And to be blunt, there weren’t a lot of people that thought we could win and had been part of the ride. So, there was only a small group of folks around him that knew him, that he trusted and that had been part of the experience. And so, I’d love to say that there was this competition of 1,000 people and I won out.
Sean Spicer: The reality is that when we won, there was this, “OK, let’s start putting together the transition plans.” And I served in the Bush White House, so I started to put together all these plans. And sure enough, at some point you benefit from being one of the few people that at least understands the job and has the confidence of the person. And so that was it. And then on December 21, 2016, he called me — right at lunchtime — and said, “OK, let’s do this.”
Charles Mizrahi: And what did you think? Like, “Holy smokes, I made it”?
Sean Spicer: Yeah. It was probably the most surreal experience in my life. Because we had given him these org charts. Like, “Here’s how we suggest that the press and the communications office should be laid out.” And he had had them for — I don’t know — two weeks. And we hadn’t really heard back much of anything. So I kept thinking, “OK, well, what’s the deal here? Is this going to happen? Is it not going to happen? Is it going to get modified?” And sure enough, he just calls and says, “OK, let’s do it.” And I don’t think I fully appreciated how transformational that moment was going to be.
Charles Mizrahi: So, his style — from what we see on the outside — is considered chaotic, impulsive … You had a front-row seat to that. Are we missing it? Is there is a rhyme to the reason of the way he rules and the way he has his organization and his people going in and out?
Sean Spicer: No, that’s pretty accurate. But it’s interesting, because I think there’s a lot of focus on the style as opposed to the results.
Sean Spicer: And what I always think is interesting is that when people talk about the turnover and all that, I’ll go, “OK, well, what is that affecting?” Right? Because that’s sort of what they’re driving at by saying, “Well, there are all these people turning over.” The question you have to ask yourself is, “So what?” Right?
Sean Spicer: You can go to an organization where everybody’s been there 20 years. Does that mean that they’re getting things done? Does that mean that they’re effective? Or maybe it’s just a good place to work or they pay well … I don’t know. But conversely, if there’s turnover, you have to ask yourself, “OK, well, why is that?”
Sean Spicer: And I think in Trump’s case, it was for a lot of reasons … One, he was new. Two, he’s not a politician, so he wasn’t drawing on years of experience of, “Here’s my staff from the senators, or here’s all these lobbyists that have helped me.” And so there was a lot of churn of people trying to figure out how to work together, whether they wanted to be doing this … Are they the right fit for the job that they have? And then, was this what they wanted to be doing? But yeah, that’s what it was.
Charles Mizrahi: I heard you say — I can’t remember which interview — a while ago that your first day on the job … You thought it was going to be your last day?
Sean Spicer: Well, you know, I had done a press conference for him on January 5, 2017 at Trump Tower. And he had sort of applauded me afterwards. Like, “That was great how you handled it.” And I kind of thought, “OK, I’ve got it. I know how he wants me to handle this.”
Sean Spicer: And so we went out there that first day. I was like, “OK, I think I know what he wants.” And honestly, that was a big learning curve lesson for me. Because what I realized was that … Don’t just assume that you know what he wants. You know, the funny thing is that there’s a lot of people who want to paint that on the president…
Sean Spicer: The reality is that I was the one who walked out there thinking, “OK, I know what he wants. I’ve got this.” And from that standpoint, that was a mistake on my part. Because I should’ve walked back and said, “OK, I think — based on the other day — what you want me to do is to say this and act this way … Is that appropriate?” And you know … It wasn’t.
Charles Mizrahi: I look at the job of a press secretary … It’s got to be the most stressful job in the world. Because you have to speak to the press. And these are all alpha press people — the best of the best. And they’re going to try to stump you. Especially President Trump. They wanted to tear him apart from day one. And now you have to go out there and not only defend the positions and articulate the positions, but you have to speak for the president. Any screw up is yours and yours alone. Do you feel the weight of that when you get up there each time?
Sean Spicer: Yeah, every day. I will take exception to that. I mean, they’re not the best of the best. There are some really good reporters in there, but there’s a lot of folks … I have a new book out called Leading America, where I talk about how these guys, their workplace, their training in journalism school … And I think it explains a lot of their behavior. I think part of the problem is that for so long, Republicans and Democrats … There’s this little shell game. Like we all pretend that they’re important and they’re powerful and we’ll get along with them. And I think that what the Trump presidency did was kind of put them in their place a little.
Charles Mizrahi: They were not happy with that — that’s for damn sure.
Charles Mizrahi: And let me ask you … Now that the genie has come out of the bottle — the way the American public looks at the press — do you think that we just crossed over a line? A new reality? Has — all of a sudden — the sun has finally come up, and everyone’s seeing that the press isn’t what we thought it was?
Sean Spicer: I think it depends on where you sit. I think for people who are center Right to Right, there’s been a reality check as to what the press’s agenda is to some degree. I mean, that’s part of the reason I wrote the whole chapter on journalism school — to give people a better understanding of their agenda.
Sean Spicer: But I think if you’re on the Left … I mean, it’s funny. Right now, you’ll see some of these folks think that MSNBC doesn’t go hard enough or isn’t pure enough. And you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh my goodness.” They think that MSNBC and CNN don’t go far enough to the Left. And so I think where you sit on that spectrum politically kind of determines, in large part, what you think about the media.
Charles Mizrahi: For the conservative, the middle part of this country which voted for Trump in big numbers … In my humble opinion, I don’t think they’re ever going to see the media the way it was in the Walter Cronkite days. I think that’s over.
You know, the funny part is … I grew up in that sort of three-network (four, if you count PBS) world. Because everyone always harkens back to those days. And I think to myself, the deal back then was that they just didn’t have any competition and we didn’t know anything different. So, we were like, “Oh, OK. Well, Peter Jennings and Sam Donaldson and Tom Brokaw have got to be giving it to us straight.” And they weren’t! I mean, those guys are all Left-leaning folks. And I think that for the longest time, there was just nothing to compare them to. And so we took it for granted that, “Oh, well, that’s got to be the standard.” And I think now we realize that that doesn’t have to be the standard.
Charles Mizrahi: Growing up … I’m a little bit older than you — just by about a decade. I went to a private school — Yeshiva Jewish Day School — and we used to read the op-ed pieces in The New York Times. And they were just horrible. Anthony Lewis, especially, just tearing apart Israel for everything. And there was only one person — William Safire — at the time who was ever standing up. But then, we found out years later that Peter Jennings — you mentioned Peter Jennings — was having some type of relationship with Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO. And you weren’t hearing the news the way you thought it was — in a pure, unadulterated way. It was going through the washing machine here.
Sean Spicer: Yeah. I have another chapter on media in the book, and I talk about these relationships. I mean, you bring up Peter Jennings … I lay out all these folks, their husbands and their wives. Just to explain to people: You think that somehow you’re getting this unbiased, unfiltered thing.
Sean Spicer: I remember back in the day when George Will would go on television. He would always talk about the fact that his wife, Mari, worked for this campaign or that campaign because he wanted to be honest with viewers to let them know that, “Hey, by the way, I’m going to comment on this candidate my wife happens to work for. So, take that with a grain of salt.” Which I always thought was very honest and transparent.
Sean Spicer: But now when you look at some of these journalists and you realize the relationships they have and the things that they cover and what they don’t tell you … You go, “Wait a second. No wonder you don’t bring this up.” Because their husband or wife or whatever works for that, or has five clients that are in that space.
Charles Mizrahi: You know wat, Sean? If this was the financial markets, the non-disclosure would put these guys in jail.
Sean Spicer: Yeah!
Charles Mizrahi: They go out there, and there’s no disclosure of their relationship with corporations, business people, political parties or individuals. And they use a forum which many people still want to believe is somewhat of the truth. And they’re coming out to you with a whole bunch of things. And you have no idea.
Sean Spicer: Well, you know, it’s funny. I get more and more people that will talk to me now and say, “Hey, can I ask you this? I saw this story. Then I switched the channels and I said, ‘What’s the real truth on this?'” And that’s the thing, is that they have eroded a sense of truth.
Sean Spicer: I flip through the channels all the time because I like to see what other people are doing — who they have as guests, how they’re covering stuff. I watched a couple of segments of Brian Stelter this weekend on CNN. And he was talking about conservative media — particularly the network that I’m on, Newsmax — and he was asking them about the rise. And the guests are Sam Donaldson, Carl Bernstein and a Democratic strategist. And I’m thinking to myself, “So, in order to talk about the Right, you have three people on the Left?” So, I guess I look at that and I don’t understand the point. You’re trying to actually act like you’re having an honest discussion, but you’re not. And you’re not being honest with the viewer.
Charles Mizrahi: No. I agree 100%. And I think that with President Trump in the past four years, a lot of people see now … The words “fake news.” My mother-in-law tells me something and I respond. She goes, “No, that’s fake news.” Fake news has never been used in the general vernacular of people. But now, I think people are much more aware of what is real news, and what is somewhat fake news.
Charles Mizrahi: Do you think the country is better off where we are now?
Sean Spicer: No. I mean, look … We’re in a much more polarized, divisive place than we’ve ever been. So, no.
Sean Spicer: But the thing that I find fascinating is … There’s been a plenty of time for reflection for me, in terms of people asking me all the time, “What did you do well? What didn’t you do well? What do you regret? What would you do over?”
Sean Spicer: I don’t think any of these folks in the media at CNN, MSNBC or whatever ever think that way. They look at the world and say, “What can everyone else do to change? Because I’m great.” And I think that that’s the unfortunate part about this is that no one at those news channels actually thinks about how they might not be doing good enough. It’s, “How can the world change to be more like me?” versus, “Is there something that I’m doing that could be done better?”
Charles Mizrahi: I’ve never thought of it that way. But you watch those channels you mentioned, and they’re looking at the world in such a different way that you sometimes say, “I can’t believe what they’re saying.” It’s just absolutely amazing how they’ve taken everything … you know?
Charles Mizrahi: Look, I’m a big Trump fan. I’m a New Yorker. I saw him back in the day. I had friends of mine who did business with him, continue to do business with him and speak very highly of him. And he was one of the first guys that came out and — with all his billions — he’s an average guy in terms of speaking to you without bureaucratic speak. And I just think the media just didn’t know what to do with it. It just didn’t fit their worldview.
Sean Spicer: Yeah, 100%. I think that’s exactly right, though. It goes back to something I said earlier, which is … They were used to being sucked up. They were used to, “I’d love for you to sit down and write a piece on my boss. I’d love for you to come in and meet with them — have a private dinner.” And he blew that all apart. He doesn’t go to their dinners, and I think that upset them.
Charles Mizrahi: And I remember — you probably know the exact date — one of his first press conferences after he became president. And he’s looking at CNN in the front. I was watching with my family at the time, and he goes, “I’m not speaking to you. You’re fake news.” And everyone in that crowd just went crazy. Who’s ever had the nerve to say that to CNN? And he just called them right out. And he went to the next guy. Who’s ever done that before?
Sean Spicer: I know. That’s what I’m saying, is that I think he broke the mold … and they didn’t like it. And so he was rewarded with horrible media.
Charles Mizrahi: So, let me ask you this, man…
Charles Mizrahi: You had a front-row seat to history. This election, the past four years — 2016, I’m talking about — really changed the way we look at politics, the way we look at the media … Through the prism of history, we’re going to see all the amazing things he did. When you knock out all this crap out of the way, it was just absolutely in terms of the economy, in terms of foreign relations and for the Mideast … in terms of erasing American morale, the fence on and on and on. Those effects are right after.
Charles Mizrahi: By the way, as you probably know, right after Truman left office, he was vilified. He was considered a terrible president. It was only 40 to 50 years later that historians realized what this man had to go through, and how we changed the course of history. So, do you see that playing through with a President Trump, let’s say 10 or 20 years from now?
Sean Spicer: That’s a fascinating question. George Bush used to always talk about that — that he’d leave it up to those who write history. I think it depends on where we head.
Sean Spicer: Because what he has accomplished — especially for those of us on the Right — has been astronomical. The judges alone, the federal judiciary … I think it depends on where we go. So, if we start really going far to the Left, I think there’s going to be a point at which people start reflecting like, “Wow. Remember when we used to have…”
Sean Spicer: In other words, I think, yes — we will get back to that. And I think, especially because of what he’s done on the judiciary, that there will be a reminder of all that he did to help steer things in the right direction.
Charles Mizrahi: Career politicians for the past 75 years haven’t gotten it right. And in almost a heartbeat, with the Abraham Accords, he just turned it all around. And I don’t know what the criticism about it now is. I just don’t get it. But he did something that no other politician was ever to do.
Sean Spicer: It’s funny because he did it … and now we’ve seen a couple more countries join. And there’s obviously the potential, depending on how far it goes, to really bring a lot more people on board. But again, it was all this, “There’s no way it can happen. That’s not going to happen. It’s not possible.” So many of the things that he’s done — from tax cuts to some of the stuff in foreign policy — was just not how it’s done.
Charles Mizrahi: Cutting down regulations, as you mentioned the beginning.
Sean Spicer: I think that when you don’t when you’re not willing to buy into the status quo and you won’t take no for an answer, you can get a lot of things done. And that’s what he shows.
Charles Mizrahi: But it did come at a price. And the price is the polarization of the United States, right? It’s probably at the worst…
Sean Spicer: You’re right. But see, here’s the thing that I think is fascinating … I always think to myself that so much of what goes on goes back to like lessons that my mom taught me — and probably yours as well. “Just because he jumped off a bridge doesn’t mean that you have to.” And it’s like when they look at Trump, they act like it was like a monolithic activity … It’s like they forget what Nancy Pelosi said. They forget what Harry Reid said to Bush. They forget all of these things that they’ve done and been part of and kind of act like he just started this stuff.
Sean Spicer: I was reading this thing over the over the weekend. And in 2016, Nancy Pelosi talked about how the election was rigged and Trump was illegitimate. And when she says stuff like that, it’s like, “OK.” When he says stuff like that, it’s like, “How can someone like this undermine our democracy?” And it’s like, wait a second…
Sean Spicer: When The New York Times writes a story about fraud … Well, that’s legitimate. It should be taken seriously. When the president says it, it’s, “This is insane! How can he possibly bring this up?” That there is such a lack of context to what is happening. Who starts it? And again, I don’t mean to start going down this path of trying to figure out who started. It is a futile exercise. But the reality is that the Left never wants to take any kind of responsibility for their role in starting facilitating, continuing some of these words.
Sean Spicer: I mean, they use all of the same words and traits and then say, “But he started it.” It’s crazy.
Charles Mizrahi: It’s like going to school. The kid would just keep pushing and pushing and pushing you, and then, all of a sudden, you would just pop him in the mouth … and you’re in trouble. You’re in trouble because you hit him. But for the last 20 minutes he’s been bothering me!
Sean Spicer: So, I’ve used that example a million times. It’s like someone taps you 18 times … And on time 40, you turn around and grab their hand and they go, “Why did you just do that?” And it wasn’t that one instance — it was the 39 before it.
Charles Mizrahi: Just a quick story…
Charles Mizrahi: One of my sons was in school. He was in fifth grade or whatever, and the principal calls me up. He goes, “Your son just punched the kid in the mouth. And Mr. Mizrahi, we do not condone any type of violence.” I said, “Look, I’ve got you, but my kid doesn’t do this out of no context. Tell me what happened.” He said, “I don’t know!” So, I spoke to my son that night, and he said, “Dad, this kid did not stop bothering me all day. He was making fun of me. He was pushing me. So I clocked him.” I said, “Good.”
Charles Mizrahi: It doesn’t work that way. You take things out of context and now put it … And I think — just to draw this back here — through that the whole Trump presidency, and for Republicans in general, this crap has only gone one way. It has never been a two-way street. They can say and yell and scream and do whatever they like, and it’s either buried or excused away. And the other side says something that is not even as damaging and it’s like, “Oh my gosh! The dignity of the office!” It just snowballs out of control.
Sean Spicer: Right. And like I said, it’s fascinating how one-sided all of this discussion is. There’s never a recognition of that. And I think part of that — and again, this is all in the book that I wrote — is basically because the media is part of the Left. They’re an appendage of the Left. And so they’re not going to rat out their own.
Charles Mizrahi: So, we are probably polarized pretty close to where it was during the Civil War — where the country is really split among lines.
Charles Mizrahi: From your view of history, where do you see this going? How does this change?
Sean Spicer: I wish I had an answer for you. Because what you see now with the Biden team … They run around and go, “Unity, unity, unity!” But at the same time, we’re basically punching in the face. And that’s the problem that I have — that they want to be able to say all the nice words and then go, “Well, we called for unity.” And it’s going back to the example I used. You can’t call for unity as you’re basically punching them.
Charles Mizrahi: So, how do you see this ending? How do you see the next four years? The next eight years? How do you see this being smoothed over somewhere?
Sean Spicer: I don’t know! I think that’s an interesting question. Because look … There’s a difference between somebody really trying to bring people together. Like right now, if you think about where the Left is, you’ve got Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar basically saying, “We just didn’t go far enough Left.” And a lot of folks in the Democratic Party are saying it’s too far.
Sean Spicer: So, I don’t know. Because the problem is that, for a lot of those folks, they truly believe that things just haven’t gone far enough to the Left.
Charles Mizrahi: Do you think they’ll be marginalized for was over the next several years? Because, look … Congress shifted. There was a 20-plus seat swing between Democrats and Republicans. And after spending however many billions of dollars and the supposed blue wave, Pelosi and Schumer just aren’t the people they were prior to the election.
Sean Spicer: I mean, we’ll see. But I think the funny thing is they’re both getting pulled further to the Left, not more toward the center.
Charles Mizrahi: If you’re a centrist Democrat, are you starting to say, “My gosh, I almost lost my job here because of this progressive”?
Sean Spicer: Yeah. Although, I think that’s a term that gets batted around — I don’t know how true it is. Meaning, I think a lot of these Democrats like to say they’re “centrist” because it sounds good. But when you look at what they vote for, it’s really not that centrist. But I don’t think that they care.
Sean Spicer: I don’t think the folks on the far Left care. Their view is, “If only you guys just went a little bit further, you’d see the light.”
Charles Mizrahi: You had a front-row seat, man. You saw the president on a daily basis — intimate quarters, off-the-record discussions … What doesn’t the American public know about this man that you do?
Sean Spicer: I think the two things that I would point to are…
Sean Spicer: One, from a professional standpoint, there’s this narrative that the president doesn’t listen — he doesn’t care … He literally loves watching people battle it out in front of him in terms of ideas and in policy. It’s like he wants to see the two best people kind of go at it and hash out those arguments so that he hears the pro and con in real time.
Sean Spicer: “You say this.”
Sean Spicer: “Yeah, but you’re saying that. That will undermine this and this will cost…”
Sean Spicer: So, I think that the irony is that I always believe that the person who loses the argument is the one that leaks out the fact that he’s “not listening.” He listened … You just lost.
Sean Spicer: The other thing — on a more personal basis — is that the president can be very empathetic. I’ve watched him do it personally and privately to other people in need. I always got the sense that he doesn’t think that it plays well into his persona. But if he knows that somebody in a tough place or whatever, he’ll call them, he’ll donate money to them or whatever…
Sean Spicer: But he does it quite often and doesn’t ever really want the recognition. Or, it’s not the recognition so much … It’s just, again, I think part of it is he’s never really thought it played into the persona.
Charles Mizrahi: I remember reading — leading up to the election — that for 20 hours he was up in campaigns, going from this place to that place. Amazing. This was a guy who just got over COVID-19 — which is absolutely staggering — running across the country, flying everywhere, giving one speech after another … And then he stayed up, late into the night, when those hostages came home, and he greeted them at the airport.
Sean Spicer: Yeah.
Charles Mizrahi: Where was that in the press?
Sean Spicer: Oh, yeah, of course. Because they were already in bed. And it’s a good story, so it got squashed.
Charles Mizrahi: So, what’s the next chapter in Sean Spicer’s life?
Sean Spicer: Well, like I said, I’ve got a new book out called Leading America. It’s available on Amazon, in bookstores — to the extent that people go there right now — and then my website, SeanSpicer.com.
Sean Spicer: And then I’ve got a nightly show on Newsmax every night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 Pacific. We sit down and have conversations with some of the biggest names inside politics every day about what’s happening. And I think the thing that’s different is that we’re a very fun sort of informative show — we’re not looking to bite someone’s head off. And we’ve had a real fun ride so far.
Charles Mizrahi: Last question for you … This is totally for everyone who knows you as Sean Spicer, Dancing with the Stars. I know there was the first chapter of your book. I did read your book. I have it right over here in my bookcase. You put that as the first chapter of your book. Why?
Sean Spicer: I think for two reasons. One is because I think it’s the most relevant thing that happened to me — I mean, since I left the White House. The first book that I wrote, called The Briefing, talks about all that.
Sean Spicer: The second thing is that I really think that it explains a lot that’s going on in culture. It’s not just if you read the chapter, you know the entire show was about “Sean polarizing the team.” And it was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m the only one not talking politics on the show!” And yet, that’s all that everyone wanted to talk about. And it was just fascinating because there’s a line in the chapter where I wrote: “Although the press loves to bemoan the lack of civility, they’re the biggest drivers of it.” Because everyone on the show kept getting asked, “How divisive is Sean?”
Charles Mizrahi: When I was reading the part where you were in New York — I think they called all of the contestants to New York … You’re sitting there. You’re going to go on well with everyone. And you have no idea what’s coming with the Tweets that are coming from the host, and you are totally bamboozled here.
Sean Spicer: Yeah. I mean, it was just funny because one of the hosts at the time, Tom Bergeron, tweeted out that he had “hoped to keep this and free of politics” and all this stuff. And I thought to myself, “Really? Because you didn’t seem to think that was the case with all these other folks.” And not to mention that Tom didn’t disclose the fact that he has given a lot of money to Democrats, that he had tweeted extensively … I mean, he had personal history about me. He wasn’t upfront about it. I think he misled folks.
Sean Spicer: And also, as I said at the time, the whole beauty of it was to actually do something that wasn’t political in nature.
Charles Mizrahi: It was a fun thing. It was a fun, nice thing. Great show…
Sean Spicer: It was a fun thing. Right. That was the goal of it. And yet he was the one making it political.
Charles Mizrahi: And I might add that, by your own account, you don’t dance well. I don’t know how many billions of dollars they’d have to give me to go on that show. I just don’t how you could do that … How much time does it take to learn the dance moves?
Sean Spicer: You practiced at least four hours a day.
Charles Mizrahi: So those results were after practicing four hours a day? Wow.
Sean Spicer: Yeah. You should see where we started! Well, there’s video of it starting…
Charles Mizrahi: Absolutely amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Charles Mizrahi: So, last question for you, Sean.
Charles Mizrahi: You bring up a great point. The media doesn’t show all of their connections. They don’t disclose. Are you going to do that on your show? When you have a guest on, are you going to basically ask your guest to disclose or show some type of relationship?
Sean Spicer: Well, it depends. The answer is that I think it’s more upfront if we know somebody has something. But what I was more referring to, though, is that when you look at some of these hosts and you know that their wife or their spouse represents people, that it’s important, I think, to say, “Hey, by the way…”
Sean Spicer: It’s sort of like if I owned $1 billion in Pfizer stock and I was going to have a big discussion about Pfizer and the vaccine. I think it would be important to say, “By the way, just so you guys know…” I think there’s a difference. (I don’t. But I mean, imagine if you owned 10 shares or something.) But I think if I sat on the board of Pfizer or if I used to work there, it would be important to say, “By the way, just as a reminder, I used to work at Pfizer…” or whatever.
Charles Mizrahi: Meaning, if I’m on your show, for example, and my wife happens to be (she’s not) a lobbyist for ExxonMobil and we’re talking about energy … Would that be something that you feel — as a journalist — you should know? You’re a really important capacity. You’re being listened to in a big way.
Sean Spicer: First of all, I’m not a journalist. I host a talk show that’s political. And I’m very honest about … I mean, here’s the difference. This is where I think there’s a difference. I tell people all the time, “I’m not a journalist. I support President Trump. Here’s my political leanings.” I will tell people on the show all the time when we’re covering a subject, “Listen, here’s what I think about this.” I’m very open about my opinion. I don’t want you to think, as a viewer, that I’m obfuscating my position or whatever…
Charles Mizrahi: No, no … I’m talking about a guest. Are you going to vet a guest?
Sean Spicer: So, the answer is that it’s hard to know. If I have somebody on, I don’t go do the personal research and say, “By the way, I understand your wife used to…” or “Your kid works for…” But would I want them to disclose it? Sure.
Sean Spicer: If I had a guest and I found out that they came on and didn’t disclose something, it would depend on the situation. It’s not as cut and dry, but I think it’s different if the host is covering something. That’s the bigger point that I’ve been getting at in the book. Because if I’m asking you questions and yet you know that I have a relationship on the side — or my family does or my wife does — and I’m not disclosing that, then that’s going to have a big impact on the questions that I potentially ask, the way I look at it … I think it’s incumbent upon a guest, maybe, depending on the subject that’s covered.
Charles Mizrahi: And just as an aside, I think if you do that as a host … You know, like in the financial markets, for example. You have to disclose everything — any type of relationship you might have. Even some sites where you put your stock recommendation on, you have to go through a whole bunch of checklists of: I do not own the stock. I do not work for the company. So, you see if it’s a biased or unbiased opinion about the recommendation.
Charles Mizrahi: I think that would be light-years ahead of where everyone else is if you would do something like that as a host. If you ever get into a situation where it’s close to the baseline, call it out and just say, “Here’s my business leanings, connections…” I think that just adds another layer of something they’re not doing. Just FYI.
Charles Mizrahi: Because look, man … You sound like an honest guy. You sound like a guy whose heart’s in the right place. And you’ve been through the mill. You had to stand up there and get abused. You know, that was your job. And it was a tough job. And you did it with grace. And when you left you didn’t write a tell-all of how sucky life was — which I commend you for. You went right out there and just said, “No.”
Charles Mizrahi: And I think with President Trump, you actually spoke to him about going on Dancing with the Stars. Is that correct? Do I remember that right?
Sean Spicer: Yeah.
Charles Mizrahi: That’s a that’s a big deal. Not many folks would do that. You didn’t have any relationship — it was over.
Sean Spicer: I haven’t heard that anybody had a conversation with President of the United States about going on a dancing show.
Charles Mizrahi: Just tell my viewers what he told you.
Sean Spicer: Well, they had asked me twice, initially, when I left. There were reports, and he said, “You know, I’m not really sure that it’s the right time for you.” And I said, “I think you’re right.” So, I didn’t go on in 2017. I’d been asked to go on, and I didn’t go on until 2019.
Charles Mizrahi: Do you still have a relationship with him?
Sean Spicer: Yeah, I talked to him the other day.
Charles Mizrahi: And going forward — my last, last, last question — is there any chance you’ll be coming back into the White House? Into any realm?
Sean Spicer: No, never.
Charles Mizrahi: Never?
Sean Spicer: Never. I can say that with almost certainly — unless it was some sort of a short-term thing, helping out for a couple of days…
Charles Mizrahi: Why is that?
Sean Spicer: Because I did it. I was there. It’s hard to go back after you’ve done it — in terms of just personally, mentally, financially and then just in terms of family.
Charles Mizrahi: How was your family doing with all this when you were starting you were working for the president? How difficult was it?
Sean Spicer: It was a very stressful situation for the time that I was there, and actually for quite a bit afterward. But it’s gotten to be quite nice now.
Charles Mizrahi: Alright, Sean, thank you so much. Really great stuff. Keep fighting the good fight. Best of luck with your book, Leading America. I know when I saw it on Amazon it was moving up in the rankings a few weeks ago. A quick read.
Charles Mizrahi: By the way, you wrote the whole book … There was no ghostwriter, right?
Sean Spicer: I had an editor that helped me.
Charles Mizrahi: It reads very well. It’s a quick read! It’s really a very quick read.
Sean Spicer: It is! Both my books … I think that’s just how I think.
Charles Mizrahi: No, it’s straightforward! You pick up the story and you go right through it.
Sean Spicer: And part of this is that I wanted it to be relatable. And that was the goal — not to have some esoteric thing. It’s relatable because it’s my experience. “This is what it’s like on college campuses.” Because I’ve been on a bunch of them in the last two and a half years, I can tell you what’s going on. It’s not, “Here’s what’s going on in the media,” because this is who I deal with. So, I think the whole point of the book is to explain to you — in common everyday experiences that I’m having — what’s going on in our society.
Charles Mizrahi: Well, you did a really great job. Sean, thanks so much for being on the show. Best of luck to you. Keep fighting the good fight.
Sean Spicer: I will. You too. Thank you.
Charles Mizrahi: If you love the show or disagree with it, shoot us feedback. Please review us on iTunes and subscribe to the show anywhere good podcasts are found. This is Charles Mizrahi for the Charles Mizrahi Show. Thanks for listening.
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