A letter to Sean Spicer

Dear Mr. Spicer,

I had such high hopes for you as our new White House Press Secretary (WHPS).

A couple of weeks ago I posted “Accountability & the Press Secretary“, all about my idea of how you could ethically and responsibly carry out his duties.  I was ready to give you the benefit of the doubt that you could make me proud to be in the public relations field. I wanted you to be the best Public Relations in Chief not only for President Trump, but as a champion of the press, the people, the nation and for general freedom of the press.

I’m not naive to think that you could be all things to all of the people groups and constituents at all times.  There’s going to be times when you will and should chose to protect President Trump’s message.  After all, that’s your main job.

But ideally, you have to do that job in a way that carries out the great responsibility of the First Amendment to our Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

I believe that the framers of the Constitution knew what they were doing by placing this as the First Amendment.  Without the freedoms that this amendment guarantees – religion, press, speech, assembly, petition the government – we would not be free, for lack of a better term.  These freedoms are the basis for our union and general welfare, not to mention our individual rights.

So it pains me to watch your first “news briefing”.

I call this a “news briefing”, but it was more of a diatribe with no time for questions from the press.

The overall message, or warning, you gave to the press was “be careful how you cover President Trump and frame your news stories or we will go above you, use only social media to share our message, and cut you out of the process.”

Unlike a lot of the media who is blasting you for lying today, these are the things that are verifiable or understood about your job.

  1. You were right in saying that Time reporter Zeke Miller was hasty in his assumption that the president removed the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the oval office.  Miller apologized.  And since it is customary for every new president to choose the art and decor of the Oval Office and White House, it was unfair and inflammatory for the press to make a big deal of this.
  2. It is true that ever since the 1995 Million Man March crowd count was botched by the National Park Service, that department no longer counts attendees of events, and the government uses other methods for estimating crowd counts.
  3. You were properly doing your job in chastising the National Park Service for their retweet of the controversial inauguration comparison photo.  After all, it is your duty as WHPS to make sure that all departments of the federal government are on the same page when it comes to sharing the president’s message.  It’s pretty safe to say that the public relations employee for the Department of the Interior who tweeted the photo probably no longer has their job. If I were in your shoes, I would probably do the same. I disagree with you denying federal agencies from using social media altogether, but I get why you did that.
  4. The day before the inauguration, the Smithsonian posted information about the Mall grass restoration project, so when you said this, you were correct.

 

But this is where we part ways.

I disagree with the statement that the media incorrectly framed the story about the crowd size at the inauguration.

inauguration-day-from-plane_ink_liMy flight was to leave Washington, D.C. for Albany, N.Y. at 11:30 on the day of the inauguration.  I was a bit disappointed that I would be in the air for the ceremony, but excited that I would be at least able to see the sights before I left.

My flight was held up on the runway for 15 minutes because the runway was cleared for a VIP plane arrival that was running late.  That’s what the pilot told us as we impatiently waited our turn to take off.  Perhaps someone important was late getting to the inauguration? I don’t know.

Finally at 11:45 AM we were cleared for take-off.

I apologize for the poor quality of the photo, but it was overcast and drizzling, and just as I had a clear shot of the Capitol Building, the pilot took a sharp left turn. I mumbled under my breath that he ruined my perfect shot.

Anyway, in the circled area, you will see that there were indeed lots of empty chairs and/or grass covering protecting the restoration project for the inauguration ceremony that was just 15 minutes away from the time that I took this picture.

From my vantage point, I don’t see “hundreds of thousands of people” around the mall waiting to get to the inauguration but being held back by fencing and magnetometers. I do know that these things, along with “cement-laden dump trucks” were used; I saw the perimeter of the Mall being set up on my way into D.C. from Reagan National Airport on the Monday before the inauguration. But, I don’t see those things preventing attendees from getting to the ceremony. I do see a large group of people hanging around the Washington Monument, but they weren’t moving towards the ceremony.

My photo only shows about 5 of the grass sections of the Mall from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. There are 7 in this released photo courtesy of Google taken by DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway.

030926-F-2828D-307

Even if you take into account your crowd estimation mathematics and base it upon other crowd size estimation methods, it is quite clear that there were more people at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration than President Trump’s.

 

Barack Obama Is Sworn In As 44th President Of The United States

Photo courtesy of CBS 20 Jan 2017 as provided by Emily Barnes, Getty Images 20 Jan 2009

 

I’m sorry, Mr. Spicer, but I witnessed the facts about the crowd size for myself, and I am not a member of the press that you so harshly criticized in your very first “news briefing”.

Which brings me to my final point.

Is this the way that you wanted to start your tenure as WHPS? By not engaging with the press? By publicly demeaning the process of a free press?

Mr. Spicer, I will support your message fairly and agree with you when you are right.  But,  I cannot and will not support you when you threaten to take away our freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.

You and president Trump may not like the press, but you cannot go around our constitutional rights.

As a member of the public relations field, I know what a difficult job you have in front of you.  You are first obligated to the President of the United States.  But do not forget that you are also obligated to the press and the people of this nation, too.

Please do not continue to take away our rights of a free press.  If you want the press to be fair with you and President Trump, you have to also be fair with them.

I know that there will be briefings where you won’t be able to take questions from the press out of concerns for national security or other issues.  But this wan’t one of those times.  This was your first official briefing, which wasn’t a proper briefing at all.  This should have been a time for you to establish a good working relationship with the press.

Please, Mr. Spicer, hear my concerns.  I’ve been fair with you. I ask that you do the same to the press and the American people.

Sincerely,

Carol A. Kinney

 

 

 

 

 

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