Speed Reads

Quotables

Stephen Colbert asks Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest if he has sympathy for Sean Spicer

Despite soundly mocking President Trump's speech to Congress in his Late Show monologue on Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert told former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest he thought it was "a perfectly good speech." Earnest agreed that it cleared the bar the White House had set, adding "they were clearly aiming that speech at congressional Republicans who, 40 days into the new presidency, are already worried about the president in their own party." He lauded Trump for condemning last week's shooting of two Indian immigrants in St. Louis, belatedly but on "the largest stage in American politics."

Colbert turned to the man now doing the job Earnest did in the Obama White House. "You must have some sympathy for Sean Spicer, because it's a small club of men and women who have been up there on the podium in the piranha pit that is the press pool," Colbert said. "Did you ever feel the way he looks?" "The short answer to your question is yes," Earnest said. "There's supposed to be friction and tension between the White House press corps and the White House. The day that there is not friction and tension between the White House press corps and the White House is the day that the press corps has stopped doing their job."

Colbert pressed, asking him about Spicer's first press conference, where he berated the press for showing that Obama's inaugural crowds were visibly larger that Trump's. "Well, it seemed like a strange way to start," Earnest said. The thing to remember is that, not unlike late-night TV hosts, White House press secretaries have to go out and face the press every day, "and so spending all the credibility that he spent on the very first day, I think, was a little shortsighted." He said it is "absolutely fair" to criticize Spicer for excluding a bunch of news organizations from a press gaggle last Friday, saying that the Obama White House never did that with Fox News while he was press secretary. "That's not what I hear on Fox News," Colbert said.

They ended with a discussion of "fake news," which Earnest argued was nothing new, especially for Trump, and the Trump team's use of "alternative facts," which Earnest found baffling. Watch below. Peter Weber