‘This Is Silly! Okay, Next!’; Sparks Fly Between Spicer, Press on Gorsuch Comments, Trump Tweets

Thursday’s White House press briefing was a tense affair as press secretary Sean Spicer faced a barrage of questioning about Judge Gorsuch’s denunciation of the President’s tweets criticizing the judiciary. 

Above all, the exchange that drew the most fireworks came between Spicer and SiriusXM’s Jared Rizzi, who complained about the topics covered in Trump’s tweets and inadvertently (or not) gave credence to the idea of not having press secretary speak on the President’s behalf. 

At one point, Spicer lashed out at Rizzi for essentially arguing that Spicer’s words should be discounted compared to a presidential tweet, arguing it’s “the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” 

Going back to the start of the duel, the reporter who gleefully compared Trump to Back to the Future villain Biff Tannen began his time by following those who spoke earlier in the briefing concerning Trump and the judiciary:

JARED RIZZI: Sean, I'm going to continue on this line despite what’s just happening there. Why isn't the White House — why isn't the president concerned about the influence or the appearance of the influence on the independent judiciary? 

SPICER: Why isn't he — I mean, he is free to speak his mind. Where has this outrage been for the last 100 years? There has been —

RIZZI: I'm not talking about the Obama administration or any previous administration. I’m talking about this President and this administration. 

Spicer shot back that “part of the reason the President got elected is because he speaks his mind” and especially on issues “he feels very passionately about” (including his executive order on the travel ban).

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

Spicer referred to the U.S. Code the Trump administration is using to defend the executive order “to keep this country safe,” but Rizzi sneered that a discussion of the U.S. Code between the two of them doesn’t matter since that’s “not how the judicial process works.”

The White House press secretary attempted to move on because the topic of Trump’s tweets criticizing the judicial branch had been asked “now eight times,” but Rizzi’s colleagues demanded he be allowed to continue. 

When Spicer acquiesced, Rizzi uncorked this complaint:

[E]arlier from this week, you say the — this is in context of the Nordstrom and not about what she was counseled about but about something she said to CNN earlier this week is that the President doesn't comment on everything. And so, I want to contrast the President's repeated statements about Nordstrom with the lack of comments about some other things including, for example, the attack on Quebec’s — Quebec mosque and other — other similar environments. Why is the President, when he chooses to tweet —

An incensed Spicer stopped Rizzi dead in his tracks, reminding him that “I literally stood at this podium and opened a briefing a couple days ago” on January 30 “about the President expressing his condolences.” Despite the facts, Rizzi continued to complain:

RIZZI: I’m here.

SPICER: I know, so why are you asking why he didn't do it when I literally stood here and did it? 

RIZZI: But the President's statement —

SPICER: I don't understand what you're asking. 

RIZZI: Kellyanne’s comment were about the President doesn't have time to tweet about everything. He's tweeting about this. He's not tweeting about something else. 

SPICER: I came out here and actually spoke about it and said the President spoke —

RIZZI: But I’m talking about on the President's time. 

Rizzi can quibble all he wants about tweeting, but Spicer offered a detailed explanation of nearly 200 words on January 30 from the President about his actions regarding Quebec. In part, Spicer told reporters that day: 

The President offered his condolences as well as his thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families and to all Canadians. This is another senseless act of violence that cannot be tolerated. The President also pledged to support the Canadian police and intelligence service in any way necessary. Prime Minister Trudeau was extremely appreciative and he was also cautious to draw conclusions of the motives at this stage of the investigation and the President shared those thoughts.

Flash-forwarding to the present, Spicer denounced Rizzi’s slight of Spicer’s job as “the silliest thing I’ve ever heard”:

SPICER: What are you — a twe — you're equating me addressing the nation here and a tweet? I don’t — I mean, that's the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Okay. 

RIZZI: But when he’s talking about an attack on Norstrom and an attack on people and you’re equating the language here.

SPICER: This is silly. Okay, next. Okay, okay, thank you. You've asked your question. Thank you. Go ahead.

RIZZI: Does that not diminish the language that you're using?

Earlier, Spicer was under questioning from CBS’s Margaret Brennan when he observed that there’s been a double standard in the media whenver presidents critique the judiciary.

“The idea of one branch talking about or commenting on another branch is as old as our republic. So, I don't know why — and I find it interesting when President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United comments in the State of the Union there wasn't a similar concern about that...it seems like there's clearly a double standard when it's how this applied. When President Obama did it, there was no concern from this briefing room. When [Trump] does it, it's, you know, a ton of outrage,” Spicer opined.

You can be the arbiter of whether Spicer was correct about what Judge Gorsuch said, but the question at hand of showboating and meltdowns by the press (while ignoring their own double standards) only hurts their cause and legitimacy.

 

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from February 9's White House daily press briefing:

White House Press Briefing
February 9, 2017
2:15 p.m. Eastern

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, in other words, the President will continue to speak like this?

SEAN SPICER: Of course he will. The President’s going to speak his mind. It goes back to Thomas Jefferson that presidents commented on judicial nominees. I mean, the idea of one branch talking about or commenting on another branch is as old as our republic. So, I don't know why — and I find it interesting when President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its Citizens United comments in the State of the Union there wasn't a similar concern about that. The idea that this is a — 

BRENNAN: Well this so-called Judge Gorusch [INAUDIBLE] a personal attack. 

SPICER: At some point, it seems like there's clearly a double standard when it's how this applied. When President Obama did it, there was no concern from this briefing room. When he does it, it's, you know, a ton of outrage. I just — with all due respect, I think the President’s made very clear that he was concerned about how that executive order in particular, which we were talking about, was applied. We addressed it from this briefing room over and over and over again that the U.S. Code gives the President very clear authority to make this happen. 

CECILIA VEGA: I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. Are you saying that demoralizing and disheartening was not specifically about the President's comments and what he said and if so, how does the President know this? Has he spoken with Judge —

(....)

PHILLIP RUCKER: Sean, your answer about the context doesn't make sense when you think about what Senator Ben Sasse said today and this morning on TV. He said that he asked Judge Gorsuch specifically about the President's so-called judge tweet and in response —

SPICER: Phil, this is like the fourth time I’ve asked and answered. Blake. 

RUCKER: But no, this is a different context, Sean.

SPICER: I understand that. Phil —

RUCKER: This is directly about the President’s —

SPICER: I understand that and I’ve said exactly what Senator Ayotte said about it. I don’t know how many times you can ask it. Yeah?

RUCKER: But — was only about Senator Blumenthal — 

SPICER: Thank you. 

JARED RIZZI: Sean, I'm going to continue on this line despite what’s just happening there. Why isn't the White House — why isn't the president concerned about the influence or the appearance of the influence on the independent judiciary? 

SPICER: Why isn't he — I mean, he is free to speak his mind. Where has this outrage been for the last 100 years? There has been —

RIZZI: I'm not talking about the Obama administration or any previous administration. I’m talking about this President and this administration. 

SPICER: I understand and the President has — part of the reason the president got elected is because he speaks his mind. He doesn't hold it back. He's authentic and he's not going to sit back when he feels very passionately about something as much as the executive order. He was doing it to make sure Americans were safe. The order — the U.S. Code is crystal clear on this. I think I've read it for like three days in a row and it can't be any clearer how much authority it gives the President to do what he can to keep us safe. He's concerned that he's doing what he can to keep this country safe and there's been a lot of activity to stand in the way. So I'm not sure how many more times I can read the code to you, but 8. U.S. Code 1182 —

RIZZI: Yeah. You and me talking about it is not how the judicial process works. 

SPICER: Thank you. You’ve asked the question now eight times. 

RIZZI: One more. I would like to ask you about — excuse me — one more —

SPICER: You’ve got — I under — hold on — go ahead 

RIZZI: — about a different set of comments that have been made — a different set of comments that have been made, Sean — also from Kellyanne Conway earlier this week. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Let him go. 

RIZZI: — earlier from this week, you say the — this is in context of the Nordstrom and not about what she was counseled about but about something she said to CNN earlier this week is that the President doesn't comment on everything. And so, I want to contrast the President's repeated statements about Nordstrom with the lack of comments about some other things including, for example, the attack on Quebec’s — Quebec mosque and other — other similar environments. Why is the President, when he chooses to tweet —

SPICER: Do you — hold on — before — cause — you just brought that up. I literally stood at this podium and opened a briefing a couple days ago about the President expressing his condolences. I literally opened the briefing about it. So for you to sit there and say — 

RIZZI: I’m here.

SPICER: I know, so why are you asking why he didn't do it when I literally stood here and did it? 

RIZZI: But the President's statement —

SPICER: I don't understand what you're asking. 

RIZZI: Kellyanne’s comment were about the President doesn't have time to tweet about everything. He's tweeting about this. He's not tweeting about something else. 

SPICER: I came out here and actually spoke about it and said the President spoke —

RIZZI: But I’m talking about on the President's time. 

SPICER: What are you — a twe — you're equating me addressing the nation here and a tweet? I don’t — I mean, that's the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Okay. 

RIZZI: But when he’s talking about an attack on Norstrom and an attack on people and you’re equating the language here.

SPICER: This is silly. Okay, next. Okay, okay, thank you. You've asked your question. Thank you. Go ahead.

RIZZI: Does that not diminish the language that you're using?

SPICER [TO FOX NEWS RADIO’s JOHN DECKER]: Thank you. Go ahead.

NB Daily Appointments Judiciary Gorsuch Nomination Double Standards Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Web 2.0 Twitter CBS Radio Sirius/XM Video Government & Press Jared Rizzi Margaret Brennan Philip Rucker Sean Spicer Donald Trump Neil Gorsuch Barack Obama
Curtis Houck's picture


Sponsored Links