Irony: Matthews Mocks Sean Spicer as ‘Generalissimo Franco,’ White House as a ‘Clown Show’

On Tuesday’s Hardball, MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews lacked any sense of irony, mocking the Trump administration and specifically White House press secretary Sean Spicer as a “clown show” with Spicer’s rumored departure from the briefing room podium reducing him to the sequel of the old SNL riffs about Spanish dictator Generalissimo Franco.

“Plus, we’ve got — we’ve heard the rumors of Sean Spicer's imminent demise for months. It’s like Generalissimo Franco. Anyway, now the President may move him to a role behind the scenes. In other words, kick him upstairs and Spicer is leading the search for his own replacement,” Matthews quipped in a tease prior to a commercial break.

He trotted out the same comparison between Spicer and the long-tenured fascist ruler before another break:

Up next, Sean Spicer was back at the podium at the White House today. First press briefing in a long time but word tonight is that his days are numbered. Of course, Generalissimo Franco’s were numbered but he stuck around. 

For those not familiar with the 1970s gag (as this author was), then-Weekend Update host and SNL cast member Chevy Chase offered repeated riffs mocking the seemingly-endless reports in 1975 that Francro was near death. Chase continued the Franco jokes well after Franco’s death.

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Still on the subject of Spicer, the twice-teased segment on Spicer began with Matthews giving a nod to a story in The Atlantic by Rosie Gray:

In a story in The Atlantic titled “The White House Press Briefing Is Slowly Dying,” chief strategist Steve Bannon of all people showed how little regard the White House has for the press and briefings. “Asked why the briefings are now routinely held off camera, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said in a text message, ‘Sean got fatter.’” 

Needless to say, this set Matthews off and led the MSNBC host to scream that “this is high school,” “Trumpian” and a poor reflection on “the great country in the world.” 

“According to Politico, ‘Spicer is searching for his own replacement as part of a larger plan to shake up the White House communications operation.’ This is a clown show. Among the replacements, catch this: Laura Ingraham. Anyway, this is amazing,” Matthews added.

That’s quite intriguing, seeing as how Matthews himself and his entire show could be classified as such. Funny how life works.

Tonight's Matthews bias on MSNBC was brought to you by BMW and Gas-X.

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on June 20:

MSNBC’s Hardball
June 20, 2017
7:14 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Pressing Questions]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Plus, we’ve got — we’ve heard the rumors of Sean Spicer's imminent demise for months. It’s like Generalissimo Franco. Anyway, now the President may move him to a role behind the scenes. In other words, kick him upstairs and Spicer is leading the search for his own replacement. Could it be Laura Ingraham? Well, we keep hearing it. We’ve the got Spicer sendoff coming up with the roundtable tonight.

(....)

7:27 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Up next, Sean Spicer was back at the podium at the White House today. First press briefing in a long time but word tonight is that his days are numbered. Of course, Generalissimo Franco’s were numbered but he stuck around. This is Hardball where the action is. 

(....)

7:31 p.m. Eastern

[CLIP OF SPICER ON 06/20/17 AT WHITE HOUSE BRIEFING]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Pressing Questions]

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to Hardball. That was White House press secretary Sean Spicer in his first on camera briefing in about eight days, trying to explain why the White House is holding fewer and fewer press briefings like his. In a story in The Atlantic titled “The White House Press Briefing Is Slowly Dying,” chief strategist Steve Bannon of all people showed how little regard the White House has for the press and briefings. “Asked why the briefings are now routinely held off camera, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said in a text message, ‘Sean got fatter.’” This is high school. This is so Trumpian. This is supposed to the greatest country in the world and it is, but the government? He said the guy is too fat to respond to a follow-up — anyway, whatever. This comes amid reports that Spicer's time in the briefing room may soon be coming to an end. They keep leaking on this guy. According to Politico, “Spicer is searching for his own replacement as part of a larger plan to shake up the White House communications operation.” This is a clown show. Among the replacements, catch this: Laura Ingraham. Anyway, this is amazing. During his five months on the job so far, Sean Spicer has had to go to great lengths to push against the president's critics and defend even his most outrageous claims. 

(....)

7:34 p.m. Eastern

MATTHEWS: Anni, I don’t know how you translate Trump into rational.

ANNI KARNI: That’s the thing. I think —

MATTHEWS: And how much — how much license do you have to take to get it straight? I mean, he's talking about tapes. No, but it sounds like he’s got a screw loose. What are these tapes? What is he talking about? Nobody believes him!

KARNI: There’s no tapes.

(....)

7:36 p.m. Eastern

PETER BAKER: You know a press secretary in trouble when he uses the words, the president says or the President has said or as the President — 

MATTHEWS: My client argues —

BAKER: Exactly. 

MATTHEWS: It’s a criminal lawyer's way of talking. 

BAKER: You’re defending everything the President — because you can't vouch for it yourself and how many times has Sean Spicer or other members of the White House gone out on a limb and discovered the limb cut out from behind them because the president ends up giving a completely different versions than they had just given. 

MATTHEWS: Look-up the word “mouthpiece” in Webster’s dictionary. A mouthpiece is a criminal — a lawyer for criminals, not a lawyer. A lawyer for criminals and a mouthpiece is somebody who simply says what isn't true because the client has to say something. You know?

BAKER: Well, the problem for any — 

MATTHEWS: You know what I mean? 

BAKER: I do, but the problem for any press secretary is to maintain your own credibility because there is going to be life after the White House. 

MATTHEW: He hasn’t done that.

BAKER: And that’s a trip for anybody —

MATTHEWS: He hasn’t done that. He’s broken his pick on this thing.

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