Parodied White House Spokesman Spicer Is a Hero in Trump CountryBy
Nashville fans seek handshakes, selfies with press secretary
‘You guys want to come to a briefing?’ Spicer asks the crowd
Chris Gallaher was sitting in the second level of a Nashville stadium waiting for President Donald Trump’s rally to start Wednesday when he heard someone shout, “It’s Sean Spicer!”
Gallaher, a burly 44-year-old in a red Trump t-shirt, didn’t hesitate -- he jumped from his seat and ran across the arena to join a mob of Trump supporters angling for a selfie with the White House press secretary.
In blue America, Trump’s spokesman stands accused of violating press freedoms and is the butt of jokes, lampooned on Saturday Night Live by comedian Melissa McCarthy. A woman accosted Spicer last week in a D.C.-area Apple store in a video that went viral. Rumors have swirled that the longtime Republican party operative might be replaced as press secretary and that Trump has been unhappy with his performance.
But in Nashville, Spicer was a bona fide celebrity. As he tried to make his way to the press pen to talk to reporters before the rally, a mob formed around him, with supporters shaking his hand, telling him to keep up the good work, and posing for photos. A group of five women with pink "Women for Trump" signs pushed through the crowd for a photo. "We love you Sean!" they said.
"You guys want to come to a briefing?" Spicer asked the crowd.
To Trump’s base supporters, Spicer is a crusader against what they consider an unfair and dishonest media. Vincent Kirby, 19, said he watches Spicer’s briefings with White House reporters every day. He likes Spicer’s straight talk and cheers him on when he regards reporters as attempting to trip him up over technicalities. The attacks, the criticism, the mockery -- all of it only adds to Spicer’s appeal, Kirby said.
"Some of the reporters’ questions, they are just trying to nitpick and sensationalize things -- it’s hard to take them serious," Kirby said before darting off to catch up to Spicer, who was trying to make his way through the crowd.
Gallaher, who said he watches the briefings two or three times a week, said he can’t imagine racing for a photo with any past press secretary.
"It’s all about support for Trump," said Gallaher. "He has done a good job of standing up there every day. It isn’t an easy job."