Donnie is watching

Spicey is shocked, shocked, that people think there was anything wrong with the way he talked to April Ryan yesterday. Or, more likely, he’s pretending to be shocked. They want to normalize asshole behavior so that Trump won’t look so glaringly abnormal and psychopathic.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to accusations of sexism and racism after he repeatedly told senior journalist April Ryan to stop shaking her head during Tuesday’s press briefing.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Spicer’s actions Tuesday, labeling the incident an example of the kind of sexism that women encounter every day. But Spicer said that Ryan was a tough reporter and he was “astonished” at the accusation. He insisted that he treats the White House correspondent no different than male colleagues in the briefing room.

But of course the way he talks to reporters is, again, not normal. He does it because Trump tells him to, and Trump watches the press briefings. That itself is not normal. Andrew Marantz in the March 20 New Yorker:

In past Administrations, the President has usually been too busy with matters of state to hang on his press secretary’s every word. This is one of the main reasons that press briefings exist. In the nineteenth century, most Presidents briefed reporters themselves, on an infrequent, ad-hoc basis. By the nineteen-twenties, doling out information had become a full-time job, and Herbert Hoover became the first President to hire a secretary whose responsibilities were solely press-related.

President Trump, by most accounts, is rarely too busy to watch TV, especially when he is the topic. “Look at his daily schedule, and you’ll notice how few events are held between 1 and 2 p.m.,” the radio correspondent told me. This is the hour during which Spicer almost always conducts his briefings. The correspondent continued, “I sometimes feel like I’m too busy to go to the briefings, and going to them is my job. The thought that the President of the United States might take the time to sit through an entire briefing, much less all of them, is, frankly, mind-boggling.” Another correspondent pointed out how often press aides deliver notes to Spicer while he’s at the lectern, and how obediently Spicer seems to respond to the notes’ directives, cutting a response short or abruptly ending a briefing. The reigning theory is that the notes are transcribed messages from the President, watching live from elsewhere in the building.

None of this is normal.

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