Forgiveness should rarely be out of the question for public figures, but the rate at which Hollywood and the media are allowing former Trump officials to rehab their images is somewhere between disheartening and emetic.
Sean Spicer should not have been onstage at the Emmys last night. He should not have been at the Governor’s Ball, or any of the after parties. Anthony Scaramucci should not be taking over TMZ or guesting on The View. Corey Lewandowski should not have a visiting fellowship at Harvard, and not just because he seems kind of stupid.
All of them, and anybody who quits the Trump administration, should go to a cabin far in the remote mountains of Alaska and spiritually decontaminate for at least a year before they’re allowed to cash in on their opportunistic allegiance with this White House, before they’re allowed to make nice with the side of the aisle they disparaged. A little quarantine for the soul. They should have to wait 18 months before they write a book and promote it on shows hosted by the journalists they’ve trashed and maligned. They should have to serve penance in the name of the people they’ve wronged. Otherwise, what’s to dissuade anybody else from doing the same thing? Evil-based opportunism should not be this lucrative.
Rarely has a man who is in the news for something that has nothing to do with his penis provided as much late-night comedy fodder as Sean Spicer. During his tenure as White House Press Secretary, his pioneering combination of whining and lying was irresistible to hosts and audiences alike. That he was doing these things on behalf of Donald Trump, perhaps the most disliked man in the liberal bastion of Hollywood, only made him more contemptible.
But last night, less than two months after he stopped serving as the mouthpiece for President Trump, Spicer was welcomed into the joke, onstage at the Emmys on a rolling podium styled after the one Melissa McCarthy used to play him in her Saturday Night Live sendup. The gathered celebrities whooped and cheered. After the ceremony, Spicer yukked it up at the Governor’s Ball. He was mobbed by celebrities who wanted selfies with him; even those who have sold their soul can’t resist the appeal of the celebrity selfie.
It was Stephen Colbert’s idea to bring Spicer into the joke. Colbert, perhaps more than anybody else, has benefitted from angrily calling out Trump and his sycophants from his show, which has become a destination for catharsis-seeking Trump haters. And because of this, Colbert’s ratings have shot up, past his late-night rivals. It’s almost as though people who work in show business are so removed from the direct impact of Trump policies that they can step in or out of their anger, get mad until the buzzer sounds, like it’s a sport.
But if there are no actual lasting career repercussions for doing the bidding of the Trump White House, then what’s to prevent any old craven Washington type to dye their dignity orange for a few months? If one way to get accepted into the media and Hollywood is to smear the media and Hollywood, then why not do it, if fame is what you’re after?
Of course, not everybody was so willing to forgive Sean Spicer for all of his unpleasantness; some celebrities and Emmy attendees expressed dismay that he was included in the ceremony at all. Many media writeups of the show singled out the Spicer moment as a sour note. But all it takes is one highly-placed person to provide an ex-Trumper a path to fame.
As Sean Spicer wheeled onstage, my heart sank with the realization that this is what will be happening for the next four years or longer. As Trump’s clingers-on drop off one by one, they’ll each have their own way of trying to get cute with the press, with the public, with the very elites and artists and journalists they made a career of bashing. Ivanka is already trying to pre-rehab herself. Perhaps we should call it a prehab. So is Jared Kushner. Kellyanne Conway will probably try to chirp her way into a cable news contract. The Large Trump Sons will probably get paid to go around sweating and barking at microphones. There will be movie cameos and speaking tours and ironic friendships between reporters who regard themselves as edgy and the people they once regarded as dangerous fascists.
Former Trump administration officials who come running to Hollywood with their hands and wallets open should be rewarded with a cold shoulder and a closed door. At least for now.
But that brings us to the crux of the problem. The media and entertainment industries are for-profit places. They will play what people will watch. And you watched. I watched. And so they will keep being given chances to appear on TV. And Sean Spicer will get away with it, outracing the professional repercussions he’s earned on a motorized podium.