Sean Spicer's Emmys bit is the redemption arc we don't need right now.

It's not quite the level playing field we'd like to believe.

Sean Spicer, the man who began his tenure at the White House by claiming, contrary to all evidence, that Trump's inauguration crowd was "the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period," received a roaring round of applause when he appeared on stage at the Emmys.

Sean Spicer at the Emmys. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.


Reactions in the audience ranged from delight to shock, as the same man who once ranted that "not even Hitler" used chemical weapons or gas on his own people (blatantly false) was invited to spend the evening rubbing elbows with Hollywood's elite.

Less than two months after officially leaving the White House, the same man who supported Trump's claim that there were "millions" of illegal votes in the 2016 election by misrepresenting a 2008 study has seemingly shed his pariah status. How?

Actor Jason Isaacs shared his feelings on Spicer's Emmys appearance in a no-holds-barred Instagram post.

"What were the Emmys thinking celebrating this modern day Goebbels, who was the thuggish face of Orwellian doublespeak just moments ago?" Isaacs captioned a selfie he took at the Netflix after-party with Spicer in the background. Spicer "has the aura of a giant festering abscess," Isaacs wrote.

It's not as though Isaacs is alone in thinking the gleeful reintegration of Sean Spicer into polite society is out of bounds.

Spicer's ability to shed his poor reputation is not without precedent.

People just love a good redemption story. Conservative commentator David Frum, a speechwriter during George W. Bush's administration, is best known for the infamous "Axis of Evil" speech that laid the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq. Today, you can find him being approvingly retweeted by liberals and progressives for his "#NeverTrump" views, offering political commentary in writing and on TV.

The same can be said of Rick Wilson, a Republican ad-maker who was the driving force behind a 2002 TV spot suggesting that  Vietnam veteran Max Cleland was sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden and a racially-tinged 2008 ad centered on candidate Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. These days, he can be found making regular appearances on MSNBC and being favorably written about on liberal blogs.

For the most part, their pasts have been wiped clean. It's no surprise, then, that so many are willing to ignore Spicer's propagandist past and allow him to be remembered more as the lovable satirization Melissa McCarthy played on "Saturday Night Live" than for the very real harm he caused to American citizens during his brief tenure as Trump's press secretary.

Spicer during a January press briefing. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Not everybody gets the kind of "good redemption story" that Sean Spicer is currently enjoying.

In a tweet following Spicer's Emmys appearance, MSNBC host Chris Hayes summed the problem up perfectly.

Forgiveness, redemption, and fresh starts are too often offered only to the powerful. The wealthy. The elite. The rest of us aren't so privileged.

Perhaps no better example of this dynamic exists than two stories currently playing out at Harvard University. The school recently unveiled its Institute of Politics visiting fellows for the Fall 2017 session. Among those invited were Sean Spicer and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in a military prison for leaking classified documents, was also slated to join the group. Manning's inclusion was met with backlash (CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell even resigned from the fellows program in protest), and she was swiftly and unceremoniously removed from the lineup.

Lewandowski at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Lewandowski, who was charged with battery for grabbing a reporter during the campaign and was recently accused of threatening his neighbors with a baseball bat, has since landed a cushy CNN contributor position for several months during the campaign and is now headed to Harvard. Like Spicer, redemption came easy for Lewandowski.

Chelsea Manning, though? She doesn't get to be forgiven. She doesn't get to have a fresh start. She doesn't get an invite to the Emmys or to be a CNN contributor, even though her sentence was commuted by President Obama in early 2017.

The same goes for Michelle Jones, who after serving more than 20 years in an Indiana prison, applied and was accepted to Harvard's exclusive history program before a dean overturned that decision. She worked, studied, and made it into the school on her merits, but her past kept her from a fresh start.

"We didn't have some preconceived idea about crucifying Michelle," John Stauffer, a Harvard American studies professor, told The New York Times, which published Jones's story last week. "But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c'mon."

This is the kind of elitism we need to rail against, the kind that holds people to different standards based solely on who they are.

The world isn't yet a just and equal place for everyone to live, and we should always question why we're so willing to help reintegrate some who've sought a fresh start back into society, but not all. If the Spicers, Lewandowskis, Wilsons, and Frums of the world deserve a chance at redemption, why shouldn't that extend to people from marginalized groups, like Manning or Jones?

The dynamic spelled out between the anger and disbelief of Isaacs's post-Emmys Instagram post and the sober reality of Hayes' tweet about redemption say a whole lot about what justice looks like for those in power versus those who lack it.

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If you wonder why the LGBTQ community holds Pride parades, look no further than Grayson Fritts.

If you don't know who Grayson Fritts is, here's a brief intro:

He's a pastor. He's a police officer. And he is on video screaming from the pulpit that the government should kill gay people.

That's not an exaggeration.

In a video of a fist-pounding sermon at All Scripture Baptist church in Knoxville, Tennessee, Fritts said that police should round up people at Pride parades, put them through a quick trial, and then put them to death.

"The Bible says the powers that be are ordained of God," he said, "and God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to these LGBT FREAKS and arrest them. Have a trial for them, and if they are convicted then they are to be put to death…do you understand that? It's a capital crime to be carried out by our government. Not Christians...unless you're a policeman. Know what I mean? If you're a policeman it should be your responsibility to carry these things out."

Just FYI, this man was named "Detective of the Month" in 2017. Let that sink in for a hot second.

"Pride parades?" he continued. "Hey, call the riot teams. We got a bunch of 'em, Get the patty wagon out here, we got a bunch of 'em going to jail, we got a bunch of them that we're gonna get convicted because they've got their pride junk on and they're professing what they are, that they're a filthy animal. After this onslaught, where the government's arresting them and carrying out God's laws and they're all dead…"

And that's only part of it. You can watch five minutes of the sermon here, though I don't actually recommend it.


P.S. The church's website states that the church is "a family integrated church, meaning children of all ages are welcome in our services." So presumably, this extremist, violent hate speech was being delivered to children as well as adults. Lovely.

Grayson Fritts and his church planned a meeting for June 29 at a Cracker Barrel in Cleveland, Tennessee. The restaurant said, "Nope."

The church website lists a "Small Town Soul Winning" event for June 29 in Cleveland, Tennessee, about 80 miles southwest of Knoxville. Presumably, that's why Fritts and members of his church were planning an event at the local Cracker Barrel in town.

But according to Knox News, Cracker Barrel has turned away Fritts and his gang, citing the chain's zero-tolerance policy for "discriminatory treatment or harassment of any sort."

Cracker Barrel said it told the church it couldn't hold its event at their restaurant. "We disagree strongly with their statements of hate and divisiveness," the restaurant chain said in a statement. "We serve everyone who walks through our doors with genuine hospitality, not hate, and require all guests to do the same."

For the folks who would say, "But isn't that just Cracker Barrel discriminating against Fritts for his religious beliefs?" No. If the restaurant had said he and his fellow "Christians" couldn't eat there because they were Christian, that would be religious discrimination. It is Fritts' discrimination, hate speech, and advocating of violence that violates the company's policy of service, not his stated religious affiliation.

Businesses have the right to refuse service to customers that pose a threat other customers. No doubt, LGBTQ people eat at Cracker Barrel. Would you feel safe in an enclosed space with a presumably armed man who believes—and tries to convince others—that you should be put to death?

In a capitalist society that values free speech, businesses taking a stand can be a powerful statement.

We can debate all day long about whether hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment, but as of now, it is. One could make the argument that Fritts was inciting violence with his speech—which would make such speech not protected—but the fact that he was advocating for the government to do the violence and not for citizens to take it upon themselves may legally shield him from that argument.

I know that seems weird, but such are the realities of free speech.

However, the First Amendment only protects us from the government squashing our freedom of expression. It does not mean that a business or private entity can't decide that someone's speech is too heinous to allow in their space. Speech is not protected from other people calling you out on what you say. It's not protected from businesses or institutions deciding you're too much of an a-hole to do business with.

No one needs to be tolerant of dehumanization. No one needs to be tolerant of someone calling for innocent people's deaths because of who they are attracted to. No one should stand for that, ever.

Good for Cracker Barrel for making it clear that there is no place for such hatred at their tables.

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