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Sean Spicer should cool down and stick to the facts, predecessors say

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

In the 88 years since President Hoover named a former Minneapolis Tribune reporter as the first White House press secretary, nobody who has held that job has stumbled as quickly or dramatically as Sean Spicer.

Millions have gaped at the spectacle of Spicer’s daily briefings on cable news. Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation of him on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” most recently in an Easter bunny outfit similar to one he once wore at a White House holiday event a few years ago, has turned Spicer into an improbable pop culture figure. She portrays him as a lying buffoon who badgers the press.

By all accounts, a White House press secretary’s job is hard, and missteps are inevitable. “Even the best trip themselves up,” said Joe Lockhart, who took the job just weeks before President Clinton was impeached in the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

Last week, Spicer profusely apologized for saying that Adolf Hitler did not use poison gas against his own people the way Syrian President Bashar Assad did. If it wasn’t the worst blunder of any White House press secretary since 1929, it was close.

But anyone who has held Spicer’s job knows what it feels like to make a gaffe at the White House lectern.

“When you get to a place where it doesn’t sound right, you just literally have to stop, even if it’s uncomfortable, and do a quick damage assessment in your head, and — particularly if it’s not what you meant — take a step back and overtly say, ‘I misspoke there,’” Lockhart said.

And so it might benefit Spicer to look over a list of “lessons learned” from previous press secretaries compiled by the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan group that helps new administrations organize their takeover of the government.

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