‘This Is So Unethical and Wrong’

Jen Psaki’s last day as White House press secretary will be this Friday, May 13. She’s expected to move next to a high-profile role at MSNBC, according to Axios, which reported April 1 “the deal is nearly final” even though no contract has been signed.

“I’m glad that she’s found a soft landing,” says Sean Spicer, who served as President Donald Trump’s first press secretary. “But you can’t then continue to serve. You can’t sit at that podium knowing that your future colleagues are sitting there. … I mean, this is so unethical and wrong.”

For the ethically challenged Biden administration, perhaps it’s no big deal. But Spicer calls the decision “unprecedented.” Having waited more than two years before becoming host of “Spicer & Co.” on Newsmax, Spicer knows what it’s like to go from the White House briefing room to the newsroom.

He joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to talk about his approach to covering the news, Newsmax’s growth, and more. Listen to the full interview or read an abridged version below.

Rob Bluey: Tell us about your approach to the news and what you bring to your show.

Sean Spicer: It’s not just my show. I mean, I think all of Newsmax—I mean, it’s a twofold question. I think we cover issues that I think people are talking about.

It’s funny, literally those conversations, and we try to do it every night on “Spicer & Co.,” which is what I think people are having that conversation, what’s concerning them: inflation, immigration, things that are going on in their kids’ schools. And have those discussions with leading experts, with parents, with educators, or immigration experts, border authorities, economists, and break them down.

They’re those conversations and segments that you’re not seeing, frankly, on other stations.

It’s funny … I think we get tagged with a lot of pejoratives from the mainstream media, but if you watch the station and watch the segments that we do, I think we, frankly, cover issues that aren’t getting covered, but we bring on guests from all sides. We allow people to have their say.

It’s just that I think the way that the left has decided to control the narrative, they don’t like the idea of anybody injecting a story or an idea into the bloodstream that they don’t approve of.

Bluey: Taking a step back, zooming out and looking at the media landscape more broadly, why is it important to have a diversity of sources of information?

Spicer: Well, it’s interesting. It is funny. … I’m a bit of a political hoarder. My wife would use some other words. I was going through some stuff the other day, sorting out some of the boxes that I’ve kept, and one of the interesting things was an article I came across through my tenure at the White House that said, “Of all the things that Spicer did during his 10 years as press secretary was diversify the press briefing.”

What he meant by that was for so long, and [White House press secretary] Jen Psaki’s gone back to this, which is you call on the front row, which is the wire services, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the big three networks.

I looked at it like there’s local TV, local media, there’s conservative outlets, there’s financial outlets, there’s foreign media. There are niche media outlets that equally represent a constituency that has a question or a concern that should get asked.

Again, I think that, to the heart of your question, it’s important because I think for too long there was this idea that a group of folks in the media—The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and the big three networks—controlled what you saw, read, and heard. They controlled the narrative. If it wasn’t on their networks, if it wasn’t on their paper, it didn’t exist. It wasn’t a problem.

The diversity and thought—I’m a big “all of the above” guy, right? I’m at Newsmax. I think we do a great job of doing that. But if you want to read Breitbart, or the Daily Caller, or whatever, that’s great. I think the more the merrier, right? The more people can get their information from different places and see something, that’s great.

The thing that I find is fascinating is this is truly like capitalism at work. When I started at Newsmax, we had thousands of people watching every night. Now, we’re in the hundreds of thousands. Newsmax has, while we’re on all of the major carriers—Fios, and Comcast, and Dish, and Direct—we don’t have the same reach as a CNN right now. We’re growing all the time, but we’re competing with them.

Two years in, I mean, my show just crossed its two-year threshold, and that tells you that Americans are searching out a place like Newsmax and saying, “I want to watch this show. I like what I see.” It’s 90% of the time when I talk to people, it’s word of mouth. “I heard it from a friend.” “I heard it from a family member.” “Somebody that lives down the street from me watches your show and turned me onto it.”

I think that’s what’s so fascinating about Newsmax. It’s not this huge advertising budget that’s out there with billboards and whatever. It’s people, person-to-person, through social media, through email, through knocking on the door, through conversations they’re having at work or at home that are turning people onto it. That’s what I think is great right now, and I think it’s driving the mainstream media nuts that they don’t have the stranglehold on the narrative anymore.

Bluey: I want to come back to that in just a moment, but I do want to say that as somebody who pays attention to the numbers and the data, what you’re saying is absolutely true. That’s why we have decided that it’s important to have Heritage Foundation experts on your show and other shows on Newsmax, because that is where the organic growth is. That’s where people are turning increasingly to get their news.

Spicer: Yeah, and well, we love having them on because they are experts, some of the best in their fields. I mean, Hans [von Spakovsky], who handles election integrity. He’s the best in the business, right?

I mean, there are folks that you guys have who have for decades been at the forefront of their specific area. When we want to break down something, those are the go-to people to talk about, whether it’s China, or the economy, or election integrity, right?

These are the go-to people who have been following it—not for a year or two, who just got turned onto it—for years, and in some cases, decades. [They] have been the leaders, the thought leaders in this, and are the people who aren’t just writing about it, who are—where policymakers are then turning to them and saying, “OK, how do we fix this?”

We love having them on, not just because they’re experts, but because we’re ahead of the curve. We want our viewers to be like, “Hey, this is where the ball’s going to bounce to.”

Bluey: Is there interest in expanding Newsmax to other platforms?

Spicer: The interesting thing I think that’s fascinating about Newsmax is that we’re the fourth-largest news channel out there right now, but we’re the only one that you don’t need a cable subscription. If you literally have a smartphone or the internet, you can go to newsmax.com. You can go to YouTube, watch it for free.

I’ve been in Florida with my family and I’ve had countless people come up to me and say, “Hey, I cut the cord. I don’t have cable anymore, but I watch you on Roku, or Samsung TV, or Vizio, or whatever it is, and you’re the only ones we—”

So literally, if you don’t have cable or you just have a smartphone and you’re walking around, or you just have a computer or whatever, as long as you have an internet connection, you’ve got access to Newsmax live television, the same as you would if you had cable.

Again, if you have cable, that’s great. You can go to DirecTV, or Dish, or Fios, or wherever and get us the same way, too. But it’s really unique because that’s where we’re able to sort of diversify and break into an audience that a CNN, or an MSNBC, or even a Fox can’t.

Bluey: What are the steps that go into your show day-to-day, in terms of identifying guests and making sure that you are delivering truthful information to your audience?

Spicer: I think part of it is, we have multiple calls where we’re looking at what’s Congress covering? What’s breaking, in terms of issues? Or what’s coming up? We’ll look ahead and say, “Hey, this issue is getting to be a big deal. There’s no report coming out.”

We get pitched a lot. Sometimes there’s a report coming out from Heritage and someone will reach out and say, “We’ve got this report that’s going to be coming out on immigration, or the economy.”

We’ll look at legislation that’s coming down the pike. There’s a combination of those kind of things. We’ll look at issues.

Then same thing with guests. We’ll look and say, “OK, who’s the big get that we want?” We had the other day just some parents on from Florida. We had a couple parents on from New Jersey who were embroiled in this whole thing where New Jersey was mandating some new courses.

We wanted to hear from actual parents and said, “What’s it like up there?” Two of them were former educators that had taught in the system. “Would you have actually taught this curriculum?” The idea sometimes is to have those conversations that, again, people would probably be having around their dinner table at night and break it down in a way that people go, “OK, now I get it.”

Also, to your point about the facts, I mean, that’s where the research comes in. … I think that’s what, frankly, makes me somewhat unique as a host, is having worked on Capitol Hill, been in the military, served at the White House, worked on campaigns and at the national party, is that there’s a lot of times where I can say, “Nope, that’s actually not how it works.”

We can break down a story and say, “While it’s being this reported in The Washington Post this way, the reality is it doesn’t work like this,” or, “It’ll never happen like that, either politically or just in terms of how government operates.” I think that’s a unique thing that we bring.

Bluey: Not even The Washington Post, apparently Piers Morgan.

Spicer: I give Taylor Budowich, the president’s press staffer, tremendous credit for doing what most press staffers should always be doing, which is recording that [Piers Morgan] interview.

If you think about it, I mean, you saw that happen and it plays into this narrative, “Oh, [Donald] Trump got angry and stormed off,” and then it’s like, “Nope, here’s the tape, and here’s how it was edited deceptively to make the president look bad.” I’m glad he did it. I’m glad he released it.

And you had NBC News actually having to admit, “Well, gosh, no. That’s not how it went down.” When you’ve got NBC News siding with President Trump, you know that something’s really amiss.

Bluey: Speaking of NBC and MSNBC, I’ve seen you tweet about Jen Psaki, who’s promoting her future employer while serving in the White House.

Spicer: Right. This is unprecedented. With all due respect, I’m glad Jen’s got a new job. It’s a tough job being press secretary. I wish her all the best. I’m glad that she’s found a soft landing, and I think that’s great, and I honest to God mean it. She was very helpful to me, Josh Earnest and her, when I was transitioning [to White House press secretary in 2017], so I wish her the best.

But you can’t then continue to serve. You can’t sit at that podium knowing that your future colleagues are sitting there. They can’t embarrass you, so they’re not going to ask you tough questions. You don’t want to do anything. I mean, this is so unethical and wrong.

She is the first press secretary to ever go straight from the podium to hosting a show. I waited two and a half years. It’s not a question of that. Even if she wanted to go straight from—again, God bless her. Go for it, but then step down. You can’t continue to do this and go on this farewell publicity tour as press secretary, where you’re continuing to interact with the folks that are going to be your colleagues.

Bluey: Sean Spicer, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s great to have you back on The Daily Signal.

Spicer: Always good to be here.

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