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Got US$250? You can go to Sean Spicer’s book party
[WASHINGTON] Typically, an author's colleagues have a house party to launch a book, or gather in a local pub.
Not Sean Spicer, who served six months as President Donald Trump's embattled press secretary and is now the author of an about-to-be-released memoir of that time, "The Briefing".
Mr Spicer is having a book party Tuesday in Washington's newly fashionable Wharf district. If you pay US$1,000 for "Press Secretary" access, you get four tickets, personalized books and access to a VIP reception. At the "Deputy Press Secretary" level (US$500), you get two tickets to the party and VIP reception, plus signed books. At US$250 as "Assistant Press Secretary", you get two general admission tickets and signed books.
If Mr Spicer or his book party sponsors invite you, you get in free. Still, you're expected to buy the book.
Two days later Mr Spicer is having a glitzier, invitation-only party in the lobby of Trump International Hotel in Washington, where he is expecting Cabinet officials, members of Congress, White House staff members, "talking heads and the DC and New York press corps," he said.
He's offering anyone who preorders his book a chance to win two tickets to the Trump Hotel event, plus a US$200 Visa gift card. Mr Spicer is not charging his guests to attend, but the Trump family is charging Mr Spicer US$10,000 for use of the space.
"I have been very humbled by the reaction that I've had throughout the country by people of all walks of life and all political backgrounds to share my story and my experience with them," Mr Spicer said in a recent interview. He added later, "I get it that a lot of the sort of establishment folks in DC are appalled by this stuff, but I've been extremely appreciative of the support that working-class Americans have expressed around the country."
Mr Spicer, who characterises Mr Trump in the book as "a unicorn riding a unicorn over a rainbow," is emblematic of a lengthening list of former Trump administration officials who have faced challenges finding a second act. Critics say Mr Spicer in particular sacrificed his professional reputation when he summoned the press corps to the White House on Inauguration Day to endorse the new administration's first official falsehood: "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe."
Over his half year in office, Mr Spicer became a kind of anti-celebrity. His echoing of presidential untruths, his addressing the firing of FBI Director James Comey from the nighttime shadows of a White House hedgerow, his referring to Nazi death camps as "Holocaust Centers", made the afternoon White House briefing a can't-look-away television spectacle that topped the soap opera "General Hospital" for viewership. Actress Melissa McCarthy created a gum-chewing parody of Spicer on "Saturday Night Live".
"I deal with a lot of those issues at length in the book and explain the context and circumstances," Mr Spicer said, including the issue of lying: "You may not agree with what I say, but you might say, ‘That's an interesting explanation.'"
Post-White House, Mr Spicer has landed a spot as an unpaid pundit on Fox News and his representatives are seeking a network to buy a pilot talk show, tentatively named "Sean Spicer's Common Ground," in which he would meet "some of the most interesting and thoughtful public figures for a drink and some lite conversation at a local pub or cafe," the pitch sheet says.
He has recorded three episodes of a podcast with conservative writer Katie Pavlich called "Everything's Going to Be All Right," and will record a fourth from Tuesday's book party, before taking a hiatus until after the book tour. Mr Spicer is also a spokesman and senior adviser for America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC that has struggled to reach its fundraising goals for November's congressional midterm elections.
What does he aim to accomplish with his book?
"Before I answer this question, let me pause and think what I've agreed to with other papers," he said, before beginning to draft a statement out loud.
"It hopefully answers a lot of questions as to who I am, how I got to where I did, and to walk through some of the transitional moments of the campaign, transition and the early days of this White House. Wait, instead of 'the White House', let's say 'the early days of the administration', since 'the White House' sounds more like a building."
In an advance copy of "The Briefing" obtained by The Guardian, Mr Spicer describes his former press secretary job as requiring the skills of a fighter jet pilot, champion boxer and tightrope artist. Mr Spicer pointed out that he did not make all those comparisons in the same sentence.
The book also lauds Mr Trump, whose "furious assault on his opponents is a talent few politicians can muster".
The president seems pleased. He tweeted an endorsement of "The Briefing" to his 50 million-plus Twitter followers on a recent Saturday, saying of the book, "Really good, go get it!"
Mr Spicer began pitching his book as far back as April, when he made an unpaid appearance to unveil a wax Melania Trump mannequin at Madame Tussauds in New York. (Melania Trump did not attend.) A pile of postcards advertising his coming book lay piled on the refreshment table, in the splash pattern of the coffee urn.
At a recent fundraiser at the Trump Hotel, Mr Spicer handed out his business card, urging attendees to buy his book.
"My threshold is," Mr Spicer said of his efforts, "do I enjoy doing it, and will it benefit me in some way?"