It was a night that will live in infamy.
On Sept. 17, 2017, less than two months after resigning in disgrace from the Trump White House, former press secretary Sean Spicer addressed the nation once more—from the stage of the Microsoft Theater at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Following a cheeky intro by the night’s host (and supposed Trump foe) Stephen Colbert, Spicer appeared behind a custom rostrum marrying the presidential seal and Hollywood.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys. Period. Both in-person and around the world,” Spicer exclaimed, parodying his mendacious address about the crowd at Trump’s inauguration. The celebrity audience, most of whom claim Resistance™ bona fides, was in hysterics, with the camera cutting to a cackling Kevin Spacey, knee-slapping Tony Hale, and grinning Lorne Michaels. Spicer, by all appearances, had never been happier…
…Until later that evening, that is, when Spicer was the guest of honor at Netflix’s star-studded Emmys afterparty. Throughout the night, the ex-Trump mouthpiece posed for photos with some of Trump’s most outspoken critics—Colbert, Alec Baldwin. A smiling Seth Meyers was captured shaking his hand. The coup de grâce came courtesy of Late Late Show host James Corden, who embraced Spicer at the aforementioned streaming service’s VIP soiree, mock-kissing his cheek.
“What pariah?” tweeted The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner. “Sean Spicer getting mobbed… Posing for pics, drinking beer, soaking up all attention after onstage appearance.”
It was, all things considered, a remarkable display of hypocrisy from an industry already prone to it—cozying up to a man who lied repeatedly to the American people on behalf of this conscienceless president; a man who reveled in sowing distrust and hostility toward the Fourth Estate in order to grant his boss unchecked power; a man who chose to downplay Hitler’s Final Solution during Passover—and proof positive that much of the outrage emanating from Tinseltown is performative.
Instead of learning from their mistake, however, the Hollywood powers that be have decided to double down.
Last week, The New York Times revealed that Spicer is developing a celebrity-driven talk show with the tentative title Sean Spicer’s Common Ground. The series, billed as “Washington Week meets Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” is being set up by the TV-syndication company Debmar-Mercury, a subsidiary of Lionsgate that distributes shows like South Park, Family Feud, Deadliest Catch, and The Wendy Williams Show. According to a pitch sheet obtained by the Times, it is said to feature Spicer interviewing one guest per episode over “a drink and some lite conversation at a local pub or café.”
“The relaxed atmosphere is an ideal setting for Sean to get to know his guests as they discuss everything from the media to marriage,” the pitch continued. “They might even tangle over the merits of making your bed or the value of a great point guard.”
The pilot for Sean Spicer’s Common Ground is reportedly set to shoot in July before it’s pitched to potential networks, with the onetime Trump administration official already approaching Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti and CNN’s Jim Acosta about guesting on the program—even though Spicer once branded the latter “a disgrace” and “an embarrassment to the press corps.” Both men say they turned him down flat.
“My sense of it is that Sean has crossed the line from being somebody who was a former press secretary to somebody who wants to resurrect his career,” Acosta said on Sunday’s Reliable Sources.
The Daily Beast has learned that, over the past several months, Spicer has been pitched to a number of television networks, taking meetings all around town. And Spicer’s Hollywood offensive isn’t all that surprising considering he’s repped by William Morris Endeavor (WME), a high-powered talent agency that also counts Matt Damon, the Affleck boys, Charlize Theron, Denzel Washington, and Ivanka Trump as clients. They also own Dixon Talent, a boutique agency that represents—you guessed it—Stephen Colbert.
WME’s co-chief, Ari Emanuel—aka “The King of Hollywood”—is not only Trump’s longtime pal and former agent but served as a Trump confidant during his presidential campaign. “He’s a very good friend of mine,” Trump told The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, claiming he was in talks with Emanuel about helping him produce a film for the Republican National Convention. “He calls me a lot. I call him a lot and we talk. He’s very political. Even though he’s not political, he’s political. He gets it.” (WME’s CFO, Chris Liddell, left the company in January 2017 to join the Trump administration, and now serves as White House deputy chief of staff for policy coordination).
Emanuel, who was famously captured visiting Trump at his golf course in the wake of his shock election victory, also negotiated WME’s acquisition of the Miss Universe Organization from Trump in September 2015. And, as The Daily Beast reported, “declined appeals from powerful Democrats to release tapes filmed while Trump owned the Miss Universe Organization” in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Spicer isn’t the only Trump lapdog to court Hollywood.
A little over a month before it broke the Spicer news, The New York Times reported that Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, and Anthony Scaramucci, the ultra-rich autofellatio accuser who served a total of 11 days as Trump’s White House communications director, were pitching a talk show to cable networks.
“The prominent television agent Jay Sures discussed with executives at CNN and MSNBC the concept of a program where the two men would square off, according to three people briefed on the issue. Both have become frequent cable network guests—Mr. Avenatti as one of Mr. Trump’s greatest antagonists, and Mr. Scaramucci as a loyalist to the president even after flaming out after less than two weeks at the White House,” reported the Times.
Sures is the co-president of United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the “big three” talent agencies. In lieu of its annual pre-Oscar party last year, UTA hosted a “United Voices Rally” protesting President Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban; this year, the party was back on. “We are seeing that the intersection between politics, entertainment, and news is stronger than ever before, and we want to be at the center of that,” Sures told Variety in April.
As with Spicer, it was none other than Stephen Colbert who granted Scaramucci and Avenatti an informal audition for their possible show on the June 13th episode of The Late Show. It was, quite predictably, a total disaster, with the duo talking past each other while sipping glasses of rosé, served by Colbert.
Spicer and Scaramucci are both shameless sellouts, that much is certain. The former joined the Trump administration after publicly criticizing Trump’s presidential announcement speech, wherein he branded Mexican immigrants “rapists” and drug-dealers, as well as his mockery of John McCain’s torture at the hands of the Viet Cong; the latter, meanwhile, was openly critical of candidate Trump (“a hack politician”) and endorsed Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and attempted to endorse Marco Rubio before landing a spot on the Trump campaign.
But this isn’t about them as much as it’s about Resistance™ Hollywood’s peculiar embrace of these Trump castaways, facilitating their lucrative third acts whilst hammering out a fresh rage-tweet at the man who made them household names. Spicer currently works as a spokesman and senior adviser for the Trump super PAC America First Action, whereas Scaramucci serves as a Trump confidant and cable-TV surrogate. It seems that when it comes to Hollywood, loyalty to the cause only runs so deep.