Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer could find his job on the line after what many felt was a bizarre press conference over the James Comey firing, a CNN report claims.
The highlight – or lowlight, depending on your perspective – came when Spicer allegedly took refuge behind bushes to dodge the television cameras as the media pressured him for answers on the FBI director’s controversial termination.
That account came from the Washington Post, which later wrote that it had updated its story “to more precisely describe Spicer’s location near White House bushes on Tuesday night.”
The updated story claimed that, “White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrapped up his brief interview with Fox Business from the White House grounds late Tuesday night and then disappeared into the shadows, huddling with his staff near a clump of bushes and then behind a tall hedge.” The story also said that Spicer “was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him.”
Spicer was notably absent from the podium on May 10 as reporters demanded answers about the FBI director’s dramatic ouster. Taking his place was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his deputy in the press office, and the daughter of former presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee.
That had people talking about whether Spicer’s absence was a canary in the mine that could foretell Spicer’s eventual ouster. However, Spicer did return to the press briefing podium a few days later. The latest story has Trump reportedly considering Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle as a Spicer replacement, not Huckabee Sanders, or getting rid of press briefings altogether in favor of written statements.
Jim Acosta, senior White House correspondent for CNN, put the speculation about Spicer’s future into overdrive when he tweeted, “WH sources: Highest levels incl. POTUS evaluating Sanders subbing for Spicer in briefing room. Last night an ’embarrassment.. disaster.'”
Acosta and Dylan Byers, writing on CNN Money, reported that sources say the perception at the White House is that “Spicer has been ‘benched’ during a critical week, following the president’s termination of FBI director James Comey. And the big question, one source said, is whether it’s temporary or permanent.”
As always, there are caveats. Trump has stuck with Spicer before, even as his press secretary endured a round of comedic hazing, most notably Melissa McCarthy’s memorable SNL parody, in which she sprayed reporters with a large squirt gun and shoved the podium at them.
CNN and Trump have been at war, of course, with the network recently refusing to run a Trump campaign ad that dubbed the network and other mainstream media “fake news.”
Furthermore, Spicer has a reason to be gone from the podium this week – a good reason. The press secretary is participating in previously scheduled Naval reserve duty at the Pentagon. However, CNN reported that such service could be rescheduled, and, certainly, the fallout over the Comey firing is a big moment for a presidential press secretary.
Sanders herself denounced the rumors that she might replace Spicer, saying they were not true, telling The New York Post, “That’s ridiculous. No changes here.”
Spicer’s much panned handling of the immediate aftermath of Comey’s firing started when he shouted the news to reporters after his email server wouldn’t work, Newsweek reported. Tuesday evening, the night of the firing, Spicer had trouble coming up with a proper answer and stumbled over his words when speaking to members of the press.
“Outside, Spicer appeared on Fox Business with Lou Dobbs, at times stuttering and misspeaking, at one point saying the attorney general had been terminated before quickly correcting himself. Photographers could be seen at the edges of the frame taking pictures of Spicer as he spoke with Dobbs,” Newsweek reported.
It got even weirder.
“Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes,” The Washington Post reported, emerging only after receiving assurances he wouldn’t be filmed and while asking for the lights to be turned off. At one point, he was “standing in near darkness between two tall hedges,” The Post reported.
During the briefing the next day, which came as questions swirled because Trump fired Comey in the midst of an FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Sanders, principal deputy White House press secretary, said Comey committed “atrocities.”
Sanders maintained that Comey was fired because of how he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Comey’s decision to inform Congress, shortly before the election, that the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Clinton’s emails, has been much dissected. Nothing came of the investigation, and even Clinton has suggested it played a role in her loss.
“Having a letter like the one that [Trump] received [from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein], and having that conversation that outlined the basic atrocities in circumventing the chain of command in the Department of Justice…any person of legal mind and authority knows what a big deal that is, particularly in the Department of Justice…” Sanders said.
It was only the second time that Sanders has run the White House press briefing. However, Politico reported that Trump was “pleased” with her past performance and said she will be handling the briefings for the rest of the week in the wake of the Comey firing.
You can watch Sanders’ press briefing here:
Read more about why Sanders replaced Spicer here: