White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon told a joke Tuesday and some people are very upset.
It all starts with numerous reports alleging White House press secretary Sean Spicer is possibly moving up the chain of command. It also starts with the fact that Spicer has held several off-camera daily press briefings.
The media have, of course, covered all of this with their usual breathless speculation, publishing multiple what-does-it-all-mean reports and opinion articles.
On Tuesday, the Atlantic's Rosie Gray pressed Bannon on what could be inferred from Spicer's off-camera briefings.
The former Breitbart CEO texted her back with a simple message: "Sean got fatter." He said nothing further.
It doesn't matter who you are. That is funny.
The fact that Bannon texted it and then went silent is extra funny. The fact that there's no windup or context offered makes it funnier still. Bannon, who is not exactly svelte in his physique, is clearly razzing a White House colleague, and that's sort of endearing. And that's something, considering he's not the endearing sort. The press, for its part, turned the 13-character text into a full-blown, albeit short-lived, news cycle. Which is fine, I suppose. It was definitely an unusual thing for a White House strategist to say, and it deserved some ink.
But the angry responses to Bannon's obvious joking were just beyond silly. Look at how some newsrooms framed the quip:
From MarketWatch: "Steve Bannon just 'fat-shamed' Sean Spicer."
From Cosmopolitan: "Steve Bannon Fat-Shamed Sean Spicer."
From the New Republic: "Steve Bannon fat-shaming Sean Spicer is everything that's wrong with the White House."
Then there were the angry reactions on social media, of which Chelsea Clinton was the most visible:
Geez, people. The guy was just kidding around. Calm down and stop overreacting. That helps no one, especially if you're in the press. Remember, if media go full-tilt on everything that comes out of this administration, it'll have a boy-cries-wolf effect. People will eventually tune everything out, including the actually important stuff, and all because of harmless things like Bannon teasing Spicer.