Since leaving his job as White House press secretary in June 2017, Sean Spicer has somewhat disappeared from the public spotlight. His leaving was controversial but seen by many as a good step for the White House and President Trump. Last night, however, he reappeared in an unexpected place: the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards Show.

Spicer tries comedy

During host Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue, Spicer rolled out a portable White House podium in order to make a few surprise comments. Uproarious laughter greeted his appearance … as well as many shocked faces.

One of those shocked and uncomfortable faces included Melissa McCarthy, whose portrayal of Spicer on "Saturday Night Live" amused many and angered some, including President Trump.

“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys period, both in person and around the world,” said Spicer as the crowd looked on.

The joke was a reference to Spicer’s own statement after President Trump’s inauguration, where he claimed that the ceremony had been attended by many more people than those who attended President Obama’s in previous years. He said that the crowds were indeed larger than had ever been witnessed at such an event, and accused the press of false reporting on the subject. This statement has been proven false by pictorial evidence and eyewitness reports.

Spicer’s joke was also a dig at his former boss. President Trump is known for his grandiose declarations and infamously, for promoting so-called “alternate facts.”

Mixed reactions

Reactions to Spicer’s surprise appearance were decidedly varied. After his moment in the limelight, photos emerged of Spicer backstage at the Emmys, taking pictures, enjoying drinks, and seemingly basking in his newfound attention.

Actor Alec Baldwin defended the former Press Secretary, seeming to view Spicer’s appearance and comments as a light-hearted dig at himself. He told reporters, “I think people in the business, the average person, is very grateful for him to have a sense of humor and participate.” He even went so far as to compare himself to Spicer, intimating that he has also done things that people have rightfully criticised him for.

Others, however, were less forgiving. MSNCB talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell took to Twitter to say, “We remember that @seanspicer lied for money, right? He lied for a living.” Journalist Lauren Duca was even more candid, tweeting, “Sean Spicer is an accessory to an ongoing attack on American democracy. Stop giggling and pull your head out of your a**.”

Stephen Colbert has also garnered some negative attention for the stunt. Spicer was often the target of jokes and pointed criticism on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Many view Colbert’s usage of Spicer for a television joke as an opportunistic grab for attention. Franchesca Ramsey tweets, “it's gonna be cute to see unnamed late-night hosts bash Trump tonight after cozying up to Spicer last night at the #Emmys,” seemingly in reference to Colbert.

Whether good or bad, Sean Spicer’s appearance at the star-studded Emmys proves that former White House employees will never lack for an audience.