I left Sean Spicer’s office about 9:45 Friday morning. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, since he’d told me he was meeting with the president at 10. By the time I’d returned to my hotel and turned on the television, word was breaking that Spicer had just quit as White House press secretary.
No, I didn’t know his departure was imminent. The timing took me by surprise, but not necessarily the outcome. We had an off-the-record, 45-minute, forward-looking conversation. And I have no interest in violating our confidentiality. The only thing I’ll offer is that in retrospect, he did seem to take a strong interest in how I juggle my many platforms — radio, TV, print, and private speaking.
After clearing White House security and entering his office at 9, I’d made a joke about finally getting to see the space I’d helped him obtain. He laughed, knowing it to be a reference to his many appearances with me during the campaign, Saturday mornings on CNN. When Spicer was the Republican National Committee’s chief spokesman and strategist, he’d often been my guest. We seemed to have a good rapport even when those exchanges were animated, and one got a little hot:
MAS: I need to ask you an additional question.
MAS: Speak to the point…
SPICER: That’s not true, Michael!
MAS: I want to address this. I’m also concerned…
MAS: Come on, I’m being fair to you but I’ve got to get a word in every once in a while. I’m also troubled by the idea that my president-elect — he’s going to be all of our president — is already throwing under the bus the intelligence community, with whom he’s going to have to work on life-and-death matters. Wasn’t that a troubling thing to do at 9:34 last night in that very …
SPICER: No! No — Michael, the New York Times in their story said that they based their conclusions on the fact that the RNC was hacked, OK? If the RNC was not hacked, then that cast doubt on their conclusions!
That was Dec. 10, and I knew Spicer was happy with the outcome because the RNC soon tweeted a transcript. At the same time, he’d texted me afterward to make sure there were no hard feelings.
Later that day was the Army-Navy Game in Baltimore. The president-elect was hosted that afternoon in the box of David Urban, a West Point graduate, former chief of staff for Sen. Arlen Specter, and the politico who engineered Trump’s upset victory in Pennsylvania. Urban told me later that he watched the president-elect congratulate Spicer for kicking my ass on TV that morning — a recollection about which I reminded Spicer on Friday.
We shared a laugh in his White House office during what I now realize was his final appointment as press secretary.
I knew it was time to leave when Sarah Huckabee Sanders popped her head in the door. My final comment to him on the way out the door referenced “eight years.”
He laughed. He had to know.
With each passing Melissa McCarthy impersonation of “Spicy,” many Americans who despise President Trump also came to dislike Spicer as the face most associated with the administration. His daily briefings became daily sport for some as evidenced by the ratings. I get all that. And we’ll have to wait for his memoir to know what it felt like to be told by his boss to go out on Day One and make a futile argument about inaugural crowd sizes. But in my limited dealings with him, he was always a gentleman. He never did come back to my program as press secretary, a casualty, I’m sure of the state of affairs between our respective employers.