WASHINGTON — From Day One, it was clear that Sean Spicer was in for a rocky ride as President Donald Trump’s press secretary.
His defense of Trump’s false claims about the size of the crowds at the inauguration. The talk of Spicer huddling in — or among — the bushes. Spicer’s reference to a Nazi gas chamber as a “Holocaust center.”
The indignities were many, some tied to Trump’s behavior and demand for loyalty, some to Spicer’s own missteps.
Over and over, Spicer chose to comply, even when it meant loudly defending his boss’s questionable claims and enduring the mockery of actress Melissa McCarthy’s spoofs of him on “Saturday Night Live.” Presidential adviser Steve Bannon once referred to Spicer as fat in a text to a reporter.
Even Trump has acknowledged Spicer’s difficulties, telling Fox News Channel in May that his press secretary was doing a good job, “but he gets beat up.”
Friday night, Trump tweeted, “Sean Spicer is a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media – but his future is bright!”
Still, Trump left Spicer, a devout Catholic, off the guest list for a visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican in May.
Six months in, Spicer announced his resignation on Friday, effective at the end of August, apparently over Trump’s hiring of New York financier Anthony Scaramucci as communications director.
Some moments in Spicer’s eventful six months as White House press secretary:
THE INAUGURATION CROWD
Spicer’s first press conference set out markers for how far he was willing to go to defend Trump when he embraced the new president’s false claim that his inaugural crowd stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.
“It looked like a million, million and a half people,” Trump had said at the CIA during his first full day in office.
That wasn’t true, but Spicer went one better.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” he declared.
There was no evidence to support that claim. Spicer left the podium without taking questions.
McCarthy — outfitted and made up to look like a middle-aged man in a Spicerian suit — strode out to the “Saturday Night Live” version of the White House briefing room and hollered her way through a faux press conference.
“I know that myself and the press have gotten off to a rocky start,” she yelled at the pretend press corps. “When I say rocky start, I mean in the sense of ‘Rocky’ the movie because I came out here to punch you. In the face.”
Spicer’s tussles with reporters were highlighted by an episode in March when he instructed a reporter to stop shaking her head.
He appeared annoyed that April Ryan, of American Urban Radio Networks, had asked what the Trump administration would do to revamp its image following reports of its ties to Russia.
“I appreciate your agenda here,” Spicer retorted. “At some point, report the facts.”
He said there had been no proven collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials over interference in last year’s election, quipping that “if the president put Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.”
Spicer said Ryan appeared “hell-bent” on projecting her own image of the White House.
“Please stop shaking your head again,” he admonished her.
ON HITLER, NAZIS, BASIC HISTORY
In April, Spicer was asked about Russia’s potential complicity in a chemical attack in Syria. He answered with a comparison to Nazi Germany that defied history.
“You had someone who was as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said.
He made a mangled attempt to fix that historical blunder in which he made an unfortunate reference to the Nazis’ use of a “Holocaust center.”
Spicer later made a second run at setting things right, emailing reporters: “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.”
Spicer huddled with White House staff near, or possibly among, some shadowy bushes for a few minutes on the chaotic day Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.
He emerged and promised to brief reporters as long as he was not filmed and the television lights were turned off. He then answered questions, in the vicinity of some bushes, in near-darkness.
The notion of Spicer hiding in the bushes became a subject of Twitter fascination and new material for McCarthy’s spoofs.
The Washington Post at one point published an editor’s note saying one of its stories had been updated to “more precisely describe White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s location” during the incident. “Spicer huddled with his staff among bushes near television sets on the White House grounds, not ‘in the bushes,’ as the story originally stated.”
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