White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended himself and his colleagues Friday, hours after President Donald Trump wrote online that his administration’s communications staff cannot be expected to speak accurately in White House briefings.
“We come out here every day and try to do the best job we can communicating what the president’s done and the accomplishments he’s making for the American people. We get here early. We work beyond being here at this podium. As many of you know, we get here early and we work pretty late,” he said. “We do what we can. But the president is an activist president.”
Despite the long hours, Spicer said, he and his team are not always afforded an opportunity to speak directly with the president in order to get his full thinking on issues and the goings-on within the administration. Spicer defended his press shop’s record of following up with reporters in situations where he cannot adequately answer a question during the briefing and criticized the press for too often focusing on finite details in search of a “gotcha” moment.
Spicer’s Friday remarks capped a week in which messaging explaining the firing of FBI Director James Comey that they had put out for almost 48 hours was contradicted by the president himself, creating an embarrassing headache for the White House communications staff.
In the wake of Comey’s dismissal, Spicer, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway all explained to reporters that the dismissal had come only at the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. But in an interview with NBC News that aired Wednesday, Trump said that “regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey.”
The contradiction put Sanders, who filled in for Spicer at the press briefing Wednesday and Thursday, in the awkward position of attempting to explain why she and others had offered a different timeline of the Comey firing than the one the president laid out with NBC.
On Twitter, Trump wrote that “as a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” He also threatened to cancel future press briefings and hand out written statements to reporters instead.