Donald Trump had barely taken his hand off the Bible when his press secretary, Sean Spicer, catapulted into the annals of American ignominy with his infamous defense of the president's sparsely-attended inauguration. Spicer's daily press briefings became appointment viewing in the administration's early months – his gaffes were .GIF'ed and his pugnacious style mercilessly skewered on SNL. In July, Regnery will publish The Briefing, Spicer's memoir chronicling his tenure as Trump's spokesman and the many years he toiled at the Republican National Committee before that. Spicer spoke to Rolling Stone about his private regrets, personal beefs and that first day behind the podium.
Is there anything you really regret saying from the podium?
Oh, fuck yeah! Absolutely!
There are some days where I wasn't as precise as I could've been and there are some days when I just stepped in it.
You once said it was the president's "belief" that three-to-five million people voted illegally. Do you worry about the long term consequences of equating belief with fact?
Look, I believe the job is that you are to speak for a principal in lieu of them being able to speak for themselves. It is not to interpret for them. It is not to correct them. It's like a lawyer goes into their client and says, "Here is what we think the strategy should be. Here is how I think you should present the case." But at the end of the day, the client is the decision maker.
You claimed that Trump had "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." What did you mean?
There wasn't Facebook Live [in past years]. You couldn't watch live events on Twitter. There was no Snapchat. CNN recorded almost 17 million people streaming. Eight years ago when Obama was inaugurated, that just didn't exist.
Would you concede there were fewer people physically present than in the past?
On the mall? Sure.
Did Trump tell you to use the phrase, "largest in history"?
No. The biggest mistake I made was that I never actually went in and said, "This is how I want to frame it." He sees these panels talking about crowd sizes and says, "We need to correct this." And I think to myself, "I got this."
[Afterward] the media is not exactly pleased with how it went down. And the president is like, "What was that? That's not what I wanted." He's furious. And I'm going, "Wow, I've got everybody upset."
How does that feel?
Are there other instances where a story was reported wildly differently than your memory of the event?
The one that really sticks out is obviously the whole story of me, quote, "hiding in bushes."
How do you remember it?
At the end of the White House driveway there's a place where all the media does their live hits. Everybody's got a little space – NBC, CBS, FOX, Sinclair. Every single reporter that's reporting live from the White House, they're within five feet of where I stood. There is literally video and pictures of me standing in the middle of the White House driveway. That's where I was. And there is no question. I was as close to a bush as any other reporter that night.
You quit over Trump's decision to install Anthony Scaramucci. How did you feel when he was fired 10 days later?
It's not like I went, "Oh, cool. He flamed out." But I think it highlighted the importance of actually having a skill set to do the job.
Do you ever talk to Trump?
Whenever he wants.
Do you ever regret the decision to leave?
You never miss it?
No. I miss the people tremendously … but it is an unbelievably intense and lonely job.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.