The Art of the Lie: On Sean Spicer and Truth Under Trump
In the Donald’s press secretary, “Baghdad Bob” has come home to roost.
Published on January 25, 2017

While delivering what amounted to an hour-long introduction to double plus good press briefings under the new administration Monday, White House Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer set the tone for the next four years by claiming that sometimes he and the White House Press Corps would “disagree on the facts.” By this, he did not mean—as would be normal in any other timeline but this one, obviously the darkest—that they would disagree about how to respond to the facts, or about the effect of the facts on policy. He meant that they would disagree about what facts were.

This statement came two days after Spicer made outrageous and easily-disproved claims about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd—that size has immediately become such an important issue to Trump’s White House should surprise absolutely no one, by the way. Because it is inconceivable that the Great Orange Hope drew less people to D.C. than a mere black president, Spicer refused to acknowledge the fact that he had, in fact, drawn many less people to D.C. than Barack Obama. Instead, he used the proved Trumpian strategy of morphing into a petulant child. This used to be a disease restricted to the Tea Party’s most dress-like-a-minuteman fringes, but plugging the ears and humming at the sound of facts is now the official Republican line.

It may seem like Spicer, the spokesman for this new party line, is a completely new phenomenon, but he has a close parallel that has been pointed out by several quicker writers than myself: Muhammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, better known as “Baghdad Bob.” He was press secretary for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad,” Baghdad Bob once famously said, claiming that the American army invading Iraq was giving up, its soldiers killing themselves. It was so fucking outrageous there were those on the left who accused George Bush’s government of planting Baghdad Bob in Iraq to make Saddam’s regime look silly. Baghdad Bob was almost funny: How pathetic could a country be whose official press outlet spewed such outright untruth?

That was more than a decade ago, before a presidential candidate could make an off-the-cuff remark about Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in New Jersey and be believed by tens of millions of gullible voters. Before whatever moves unfiltered from the Don’s pre-dementia brain to his postmortem lips was believed as a knee-jerk reaction by a segment of the public that would rather be on the wrong side of history than admit they’ve been had. Baghdad Bob isn’t funny anymore—and Sean Spicer really makes you aware of the fact that he never was in the first place.

Tim Baker
Tim Baker is a New York-based writer and sometimes editor whose work has appeared in Newsweek, TV Guide, CBS and Discovery Special Editions, and can regularly be found at He has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and also attended Hunter College of the City University of New York.
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