On Wednesday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, actor and former Obama staffer Kal Penn appeared to talk about his new show Designated Survivor. Since he plays the White House Press Secretary on the fictional show, Kimmel asked Penn if Sean Spicer influenced his acting at all. Penn took that opportunity to mock Spicer as a joke and praise the former press secretary, Josh Earnest, as a more honorable mentor that influenced his role.
The interview began with Kimmel asking Penn about his experience working in Obama’s White House. “It was amazing man,” Penn said, adding that it was “incredibly rewarding” to be able to sit around and “tackle healthcare” and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as “opposed to being in your trailer with people bringing you coffee.”
Kimmel then shifted to Penn’s role on Designated Survivor, playing the White House Press Secretary. “Probably when you signed on didn’t seem like such an interesting job,” Kimmel said, “but now it’s the most interesting job in the world,” he added.
That gave Penn the opportunity to attack Sean Spicer as a poor example of a press secretary and praise Earnest for letting him “shadow” Earnest on the job:
PENN: It is, yeah. I watch a lot of Sean Spicer's press briefings to learn specifically what not to do as a press secretary. But before that, Josh Earnest was very kind in letting me shadow him a little bit. I have a lot of friends who worked up to the last day of the administration. So got a lot of feedback on exactly what that job should be like. It's been fun.
Kimmel chuckled and remarked, “You’re playing it more realistically than the guy who’s actually doing it!”
The actor continued to lay into Spicer as someone who lost his “credibility” for lying in the first press briefing.
PENN: I guess. When we first started, the writers had asked me what's a press secretary's job like? My biggest note for them was, no matter what, the press secretary does not lie to people. Doesn't lie to journalists, doesn't lie. Because then you lose credibility and your boss, the president, loses credibility. Then literally Sean Spicer's first press briefing, he lies about the dumbest things -- I had to call the writers, I promise you, still, please, that’s not how that’s supposed to go.
Kimmel then asked Penn if he felt sympathy for the press secretary, having to defend “Trump’s Twitter feed” all the time.
KIMMEL: Do you ever feel sorry for him? I know that you're not actually doing his job but there's some kind of connection there. I see him, I sometimes feel -- I like to imagine him looking at Trump's Twitter in the morning going, oh my God, what am I going to say about this?
Penn scoffed and exclaimed, “No I don’t feel bad! Why do you feel sorry--- that’s a job that he chose!” Penn added sarcastically, “He is doing a fantastic job.”
Most recently, the actor appeared on CNN to blast Trump’s “tyranny” over the temporary immigration ban.
A week ago, Penn also mocked Kellyanne Conway, tweeting out a photo recreating the infamous “couch” controversy.