After the Ninth Circuit dealt a blow to the White House travel ban last night, spokesperson Sean Spicer turned to conservative Breitbart.com, the publication Donald Trump’s top aide, Steve Bannon, once ran as executive chair. In some ways, it’s the exact right place to go — it’s a website popular with Trump supporters, and given its ties to the White House, Spicer had his best chance at making the administration look calm and in control.
Instead, it was just very awkward.
From an opening shot of dead silence followed by an off-camera “oh, we’re live!” it’s an odd show.
The video (aired on Facebook Live) is available here.
Twitter pointed out the odd aesthetics right away:
Awkward "Exclusive Interview with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer" on Breitbart's Facebook Live page https://t.co/OZlqtHvWBG— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 10, 2017
In the Breitbart interview with Sean Spicer last night, two of the four televisions are set to CNN https://t.co/Fg0R2lQorQ pic.twitter.com/iVAD3O0cVI— Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) February 10, 2017
I checked in with Vox’s video team to ask why it’s so uncomfortable to watch. Most of it boils down to basic production and camerawork. The awkward interviewer doesn’t help.
For example, the first 15 to 20 seconds of the video are spent in silence as Spicer and Charlie Spiering stare into the camera and the videographer tries to start the recording. Then a voice offscreen yells, “oh, we’re live now!”
Once they start, cuts between shots don’t sync with who is speaking. The camera is not centered between the two subjects: Spicer is centered with Spiering on the side. Because of this, it looks like Spiering is looking past Spicer, even if he’s actually looking directly at him. Plus, Spicer and Spiering are seated, but the person holding the camera is standing, creating a diminutive effect.
At around the 1:50 mark, the camera begins to zoom in on Spicer and Spiering. It leaves us with some strange close-ups for the final few frames.
Perhaps, though, we shouldn’t overlook something less funny and more important.
In his first question to Spicer, Spiering describes Trump’s executive order as one that restricts immigration and travel from “six high-risk countries in the Middle East.” In fact, the order bars immigration and travel from seven majority-Muslim Middle Eastern countries. And there’s no evidence for the claim that the seven countries are “high-risk.” As Vox’s Jennifer Williams pointed out, the countries chosen do not include the birthplace of the Boston Marathon bomber (Kyrgyzstan), the “underwear bomber” (Nigeria), or the 9/11 hijackers (Saudi Arabia).
“Not a single one of those countries is on Trump's list, and the ones that do show up repeatedly — especially Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt — aren’t on the list.”