- BBC “Newsnight” host Emily Maitlis appeared to catch former White House press secretary Sean Spicer off guard with a series of tough questions during an interview on Tuesday night.
- Maitlis grilled Spicer on President Donald Trump’s record of spreading falsehoods, making degrading comments about women, and his recent appearance with the Russian president.
- The BBC host charged that, as Trump’s messenger, Spicer “corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.”
BBC “Newsnight” host Emily Maitlis appeared to catch former White House press secretary Sean Spicer off guard with a series of tough questions during an interview that aired Tuesday night.
In the 15-minute interview – part of Spicer’s tour promoting his new book – Maitlis asked President Donald Trump’s former spokesman him why he spread “alternative facts,” as White House counselor Kellyanne Conway termed them, on behalf of the president.
She pointed to Spicer’s notorious defense of Trump’s claim that his inauguration crowd had been larger than President Barack Obama’s. (By all other official estimates, the number of people who attended Obama’s 2009 and 2013 inaugurations were larger).
“I wonder why you didn’t stand up to the president in the first place and say, ‘You’re wrong about those crowd numbers, with respect, sir,'” Maitlis said.
Spicer attempted to laugh off the questions, admitting that it was “one of those days where I’d love a do over,” but argued that promoting the falsehood was justified because the president had been under constant attack from political opponents and the media.
But Maitlis did not let up, pointing to Spicer’s attempt to turn that particular incident into a joke, which he did while presenting the 2017 Emmy Awards after leaving the White House.
“It became a joke,” she said. “It became something that defined you … but it wasn’t a joke. It was the start of the most corrosive culture. You played with the truth. You led us down a dangerous path. You have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.”
Spicer defended himself by accusing Maitlin of ignoring the media’s “false narratives and false stories,” but the BBC host insisted that was no excuse.
“This is the office of the president spouting lies or half-truths or knocking down real truths,” she said. “And you were his agent for those months.”
Spicer again defended his record, arguing that he was simply the messenger for the president’s worldview.
“But at the end of the day he’s the president of the United States and it was his thoughts, and his ideas, and his feelings that it was my job to communicate,” he said.
Maitlis finished out the interview with a series of equally tough questions about Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and Spicer’s resignation.
The interview drew praise from many of Trump’s critics and others.
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) July 25, 2018
Man, I wish we had more of this style of interviewing in the US. The BBC does Sean Spicer, who somehow thinks we need to hear from him again. Alright, Sean, you asked for it… pic.twitter.com/UR64qHbOW9
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) July 25, 2018