Hero, Villain, TV Sensation: Spicer’s Fame Spread Beyond Washington

With Mr. Spicer in charge, the question of whether a briefing would be on camera or off — once an idiosyncratic concern of Washington insiders — turned into dinner table conversation around the country. On some days, soap operas were pre-empted to carry the White House news briefing live. Even the tabloid outlet TMZ got into the act, posting a grainy video of Mr. Spicer being ambushed by a critic at an Apple store.

Mr. Spicer’s relationship with reporters was often strained, starting with his first appearance at the lectern, when he laced into the press corps, falsely accusing it of underestimating the size of Mr. Trump’s inaugural crowd. Though he chafed when reporters challenged him, sometimes for the benefit of a president he knew was watching, he often welcomed them to his office for gossip and, on occasion, soft-serve ice cream.

Comedians could hardly believe their luck.

“There’s a fount of material; it’s insatiable,” said Matt Negrin, whose obsessive Twitter chronicling of Mr. Spicer helped him land a job at “The Daily Show,” where he produced videos that captured Mr. Spicer’s most memorable malapropisms and gaffes.


All Joking Aside, Here’s How Sean Spicer Shook Up the White House Press Briefing

Mr. Spicer typically calls on media organizations outside the mainstream before getting to more traditional news outlets.

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Mr. Negrin, who has a six-foot canvas poster of Mr. Spicer in his New York apartment (“it looks like he’s looking right into my eyes”), posted a video obituary on Friday titled, “Sean Spicer’s Daily On-Camera Press Briefings, 2017-2017.” It had been prepared ahead of time.

Mr. Spicer’s fame increased the profile of those around him.

Glenn Thrush of The New York Times, who broke the news of Mr. Spicer’s resignation on Friday, was the subject of a memorable impression by Bobby Moynihan on “Saturday Night Live.” Ms. Ryan, a 20-year veteran of covering the White House, signed a CNN contract and earned a guest spot on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” soon after Mr. Spicer chastised her during a televised briefing.

“It went viral; it went global,” Ms. Ryan said of the exchange, in which the press secretary accused her of shaking her head, a comment widely perceived as condescending.

Ms. Ryan said that she was recognized more often on the street these days. But the notoriety had its downside, too, she said, including threats she received after the episode. “I don’t look at it as a badge of honor,” she said. “It happened. I had to deal with it.” Of Mr. Spicer, she added: “I wish him well.”

Mr. Spicer had his devotees — he was once mobbed by selfie-seeking fans at a rally for Mr. Trump in Nashville — and he seemed at times to relish the attention. When CNN, in a cheeky move, sent a courtroom sketch artist to illustrate one of Mr. Spicer’s briefings at which cameras had been banned, he requested a copy of the drawing, and then displayed it proudly in his West Wing office.

In recent weeks, Mr. Spicer was spending less time at the lectern, often replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was promoted on Friday to succeed him.

News of Mr. Spicer’s exit prompted speculation that he would quickly find a new home on television, following in the tradition of former White House aides who get lucrative contracts from cable news networks. Some television agents spent Friday scrambling for his number.

One network, however, took pains to pre-emptively announce that it would not serve as Mr. Spicer’s future employer: CNN, which has clashed repeatedly with the press secretary and the Trump administration, said on Friday that it would not hire him.

The president, presumably, has no problem with that, and on Friday Mr. Trump offered Mr. Spicer one of the highest compliments available in his lexicon.

“I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities,” Mr. Trump said in a statement, read aloud by Ms. Sanders. “Just look at his great television ratings.”

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