At the end of a week that saw fevered speculation in the Washington media over the future of Sean Spicer, actress Melissa McCarthy reprised her caricature of the White House press secretary as a short-tempered, gum-chewing hooligan on Saturday Night Live.
The big questions: Was Spicer’s boss watching? And would President Donald Trump respond?
McCarthy introduced her Spicer persona Saturday night by interrupting a Sarah Huckabee Sanders character delivering the press briefing by jumping out of a bush and blasting a reporter with a fire extinguisher.
“Spicey’s back Sarah’s out,” McCarthy yelled as she made her way to the podium. The point was perhaps labored, but not lost.
Administration officials, who have scrambled through perhaps the most tumultuous week of Trump’s presidency with his firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday, have indicated – anonymously – to various media outlets that a shake up of the White House communications staff could be imminent.
During the tense week, Trump reportedly has canvassed aides about negative headlines the administration continually generates, and if he needs to change the public face of the White House press operation.
Several times throughout the week, Trump floated the idea of canceling press briefings “for the sake of accuracy.” He suggested the administration could hold a briefing every two weeks that he himself would deliver.
The president also said Spicer “gets beat up” at the podium by the White House press corps, and praised the performance of deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who conducted several briefings in Spicer’s absence (Spicer was away on Naval Reserve duty).
Trump also defended Spicer as a “wonderful human being” and a “nice man.”
But it was Spicer’s initial viral lampooning by a woman – comedian McCarthy, an SNL alum – on Feb. 5 that reportedly rankled Trump so much that he was uncharacteristically silent the rest of the weekend on Twitter, seen internally as a sign of the president’s discomfort with McCarthy’s performance, and how it reflected on the White House.
During Saturday’s skit, reporters questioned McCarthy’s Spicer on how they can trust what the president is telling him to say — alluding to this past week’s events.
“I’m telling you exactly what President Trump told me,” she said, adding that Trump is her friend.
The skit led to Spicer traveling to Trump Tower in New York to ask Trump whether his job was really on the line.
The segments reflected chaotic scenes outside the White House on Tuesday night as the communications team scrambled to deliver the president’s messaging on Comey’s firing, a message Trump subsequently blew up in a wide-ranging interview with NBC News on Thursday.
The narrative initially conveyed by Vice President Mike Pence and the communications team – indicating the president followed the advice of Justice Department officials who recommended Comey be fired – was directly contradicted by Trump, who said he made the decision on his own.
Saturday Night Live teased this week’s episode the day after Comey was fired with a video clip of McCarthy singing along to West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty” as she transforms into her “Spicey” alter-ego.
The following day, McCarthy posted on her Instagram a video of her as Spicer yelling and moving toward the camera, with the caption “Straight out da bushes,” the reference being to a Washington Post article that said Spicer was hiding from reporters in the bushes outside the White House following Comey’s surprise firing. The article was later updated to say Spicer had huddled “among” the bushes with staff.
The biggest spectacle was Friday, when McCarthy was spotted in full Spicer gear on 58th Street in New York riding a motorized platform — including podium — through traffic while yelling “Come on” to the traffic around her.
While Spicer’s future remains under heavy speculation, Trump’s plan to deliver his own bi-weekly press briefing may have a final stumbling block: the show-biz besotted president has previously slammed Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on SNL, calling it “not funny,” “really bad,” and “the worst of NBC.”
However, Saturday’s skit ended with Trump and Spicer kissing and making up. So who really knows? Tune in Sunday. Live from D.C.