Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a surprise appearance at the Emmy's Sunday night, rolling onto the stage on his trademark podium during host Stephen Colbert's opening monologue. It's one of the first public appearances Spicer has made since leaving the White House in July under circumstances.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmy's, period, both in person and around the world,” Spicer said during his brief cameo. This was a reference to the first press conference Spicer gave as press secretary, in which he falsely claimed that Donald Trump's inaugural ceremony drew "the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe." PolitiFact gave Spicer, the former chief strategist of the Republican National Committee, a "Pants-On-Fire" rating for that claim, saying that there was no evidence to support Spicer's "flat-out wrong" assertion.
After Spicer left the stage, Colbert jokingly referred to him as "Melissa McCarthy," a reference to the Saturday Night Live comic who depicted Spicer during his tenure in the White House. The fact that Spicer took the stage on a literal rolling podium was, itself, a callback to McCarthy's sketches, in which she, too, used a podium as a vehicle.
The celebrities in the audience, most notably Veep star Anna Chlumsky, appeared surprised by Spicer's cameo. Kevin Spacey could be seen laughing after Spicer rolled on stage, and McCarthy herself reacted with what appeared to be a combination of skepticism and amusement.
Many on Twitter, however, were highly critical of the decision to include Spicer in the Emmy’s, arguing that it effectively normalized a public official who misled the American people repeatedly during his tenure in government. In addition to his false assertions about Trump’s inaugural crowd, Spicer incorrectly claimed that Adolf Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons during World War II, and defended President Trump's baseless assertion that former President Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower. Spicer also parroted a debunked lie about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian attorney during the presidential campaign, contradicting Trump Jr. himself in the process.
"What fun to watch @seanspicer having a sense of humor about all the times he lied to the American public!," comedian Paul F. Thompkins wrote. "GOOD SPORT!"
".@seanspicer can normalize himself in good fun, but he still passionately advocated against human rights, health care, & American values," tweeted actor Kal Penn, who also served in the Obama administration.
As the first public face of the Trump administration, Spicer attracted an unusual amount of attention for a White House Press Secretary. He became noted for his contentious interactions with reporters, which McCarthy parodied frequently during her depiction of him on Saturday Night Live. According to Politico, Trump was enraged with McCarthy's impression of Spicer, reportedly telling aides that he didn't want a male in his administration being impersonated by a woman on television.
Before joining the Trump administration, Spicer served as the communications director and chief strategist of the Republican National Committee. As an RNC official during the presidential campaign, Spicer was highly critical of then-candidate Trump, and condemned Trump's comments on several occasions. Trump's decision to appoint Spicer as press secretary was seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between the existing Republican establishment and the incoming president's grassroots, anti-establishment base.
Spicer left the administration in July, reportedly due to tensions between him and Anthony Scaramucci, who served briefly as White House Communications Director.
Spicer's on-stage cameo Sunday was only one of two Spicer-related things that happened at the Emmy's. At another point during the show, Colbert referred to Wizard of Lies, a TV movie about disgraced financier and convicted felon Bernie Madoff, as "the Sean Spicer story."