In Sean Spicer’s new book, “The Briefing,” released Tuesday, the former White House press secretary criticizes a “click-based media attitude that it is more important to be first than right.” He singles out a Wall Street Journal story from July 2017 that “falsely accused me of taking a mini-fridge from junior staffers.”
But Fridgegate is real and Spicer’s denial is fake news, according to six former White House staffers. “It’s very Sean-like to lie about something that he just could have just ignored,” said one of those staffers.
In the first weeks of the Trump administration, according to all six former staffers, the mini-fridge from the office of low-level administration officials in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) was moved into Spicer’s office over the protests of subordinates. The aides used the fridge often, and said Spicer should buy his own fridge with his $179,700 annual White House salary.
In retaliation for the fridge’s disappearance, some lower-level staffers leaked the story to the media, a sign of just how fractious the White House had become in the early months of the Trump administration.
“Most of us were like, ‘Fuck, yeah, this slight will not go unpunished. It was our little protest against a very bad man,’” said one former White House official. “We were like freedom fighters, basically.”
“Most of us were like, ‘Fuck, yeah, this slight will not go unpunished.'”
Spicer had asked for the fridge early on in his White House tenure, and sent an aide over to retrieve it, only to be rebuffed. Then around 7:30 p.m. one evening, a former White House official saw Spicer carry the fridge out of the office — electrical cord dangling behind — outside the EEOB, down the stairs, and over to the West Wing. The same official saw it in Spicer’s office soon after.
Spicer didn’t end up even keeping the fridge he'd taken; he replaced it with a bigger one that could more easily fit the freezer mugs he often used, according to one former official who saw both fridges in Spicer’s office.
Spicer did not respond to multiple requests for comment. His book has been criticized for other inaccuracies, such as recalling a reporter asking Barack Obama a question in 1999 —10 years before his presidency. The book also confuses Christopher Steele, author of the infamous pee tape dossier, with Michael Steele, the former head of the Republican Party, as the Wall Street Journal first pointed out.
One former White House official defended Spicer and said that the fridge story had been hyped as a theft and spun by reporters eager to make the press secretary look dumb. “Due to mold concerns, West Wing staff were not able to have fridges installed in their offices. So Sean had one brought over from one of the EEOB offices in his department, and that fridge was to be replaced — and it was,” the former official said.
The fridge was ultimately replaced months after Spicer took it and following the Wall Street Journal story, but aides making as little as $51,000 a year were frustrated that they didn't have a place for their Lean Cuisines, containers of chicken and rice, and lunchmeat sandwiches brought from home during that time.
Their gripes struck some in the White House as ridiculous millennial whining, while others saw it as Spicer absurdly throwing his weight around with his subordinates in the face of near-constant criticism from the press and, often, from the president.
“As always, I felt a twinge of anxiety whenever summoned to see the president,” Spicer wrote in his book. “Typically, if you are called into the Oval Office, it isn’t for an ‘attaboy.’”
Cover image: Sean Spicer talks to host David Webb during a SiriusXM Patriot Forum at the SiriusXM Studios on July 23, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )