Jokes should not pardon politicians


Christopher Perez/Guilfordian

Humor can be a coping mechanism. When we are uncomfortable, sometimes we laugh. When the internet is angry, it mocks.

But when do the jokes become normalization?

At the Emmys this year, Sean Spicer made an appearance parodying Saturday Night Live’s Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of him. Spicer came out on an SNL-style podium to reassure Stephen Colbert, the host, of the ratings. The moment was brief, but resulted in discussion about whether Spicer deserves the platform he was given in the entertainment industry.

Ted Cruz recently made the news with a tweet “confirming” his identity as the Zodiac killer. The joke, which gained traction during his presidential campaign, has been a way to ridicule the conservative senator. The tweet was the first public acknowledgement of the joke. Does the joke die now? Can it continue, or has Cruz’s acknowledgement let him become in on the joke?

Spicer and Cruz seem to want to recover their politically tarnished images now that they are largely out of the national spotlight. Spicer is trying to revitalize his career and has signed on with the Worldwide Speakers Group. Cruz has plans to run once again in 2018 to extend his senatorial term.

How long do these jokes continue being jokes? Spicer’s time as White House Press Secretary consisted of lies and misdirection. McCarthy’s portrayal of him was only slightly exaggerated. He perpetuated the “alternative facts” of the Trump administration and did not respect any semblance of truth.

The way that Spicer was embraced and laughed with, not at, by some at the Emmys, ignores the damage Spicer has done to this country. We must hold people accountable for their actions. After months of promoting false narratives, Spicer should not be normalized by showing up as the butt of a joke. Had Melissa McCarthy shown up as Spicer and said the same thing, it would be different. It may be a tired joke by then, but it would not have the political implications of Spicer’s presence.

Some may consider the exile of Spicer from entertainment as an overreaction. However, Spicer’s Emmy appearance suggests that misleading the American public is not enough to derail a career.

Spicer’s self-mocking does not equate to an acknowledgement of lies. Ted Cruz’s Zodiac Killer joke does not make him suddenly relatable and sympathetic to the internet. The Emmys should not serve as redemption for Spicer. Cruz’s momentary sense of humor does not excuse his extremist and obstructionist actions.

Joking about Sean Spicer or Ted Cruz does not inherently mean any kind of endorsement or affection for the subject of the joke, but it may lead to us taking them less seriously. We must be aware, even as we enjoy the memes and jokes, of the consequences of political actions. We must hold our leaders accountable, no matter the position they hold, and send a clear message to them. Laughing along with us does not excuse your actions, and we will remember what you’ve done.