Megyn Kelly grills Sean Spicer over whether he stands by past White House claims

NBC host Megyn Kelly sparred with former White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerBolton denies saying he will back Biden over Trump in November Trump campaign touts 4M online viewers for Tulsa rally Trump mocked for low attendance at rally MORE on Thursday in a contentious interview that hinged on the former spokesman's defense of President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE's false and misleading claims.

Spicer, appearing on NBC's "Today" to promote his upcoming book "The Briefing," sought to cast Trump as a salesman who embraces hyperbole to sell his products, whether they are luxury apartments or policies.

But Kelly tore into the former press secretary for trying to "justify" some of the president's most questionable claims.

ADVERTISEMENT

"You're trying to justify the misleading now, as opposed to just apologizing for it," Kelly said.

"That's not true," Spicer retorted, adding that he could have done a "much better job" at certain points in his tenure as press secretary.

Spicer, who resigned last year after Trump named Anthony ScaramucciAnthony ScaramucciRepublican operatives pushing GOP turnout for Biden with new super PAC President sinks amid stumbles over protests Sunday shows preview: Protests against George Floyd's death, police brutality rock the nation for a second week MORE as his new communications director, first gained notoriety just after the real estate mogul's inauguration when he asserted that the crowd that showed up to witness Trump taking the oath of office "was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period."

In his interview with Kelly on Thursday, Spicer acknowledged that he "made mistakes" as the White House's chief spokesman. But he was steadfast in his insistence that Trump himself was truthful.

"He's never sat in front of me and lied to my face or told me to go do anything," Spicer told Kelly.

"Just because the lie is not to your face doesn't mean it didn't happen," she replied.

When confronted by Kelly about false assertions made by Trump — that former President Obama released 122 prisoners from the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, for example — Spicer dismissed the examples, saying that the president is, first and foremost, a salesman.

"I think there's several areas where he's used his hyperbole —" he said, before being interrupted by Kelly.

"No, that's not hyperbole. Those are not truthful statements," Kelly replied. 

"I've made mistakes myself, I think we've all done them," Spicer said. "I'm not accountable for every single thing that anybody else has said."

"I know, but you're accountable for saying you think he's a truthful person," Kelly said.

"That's what I believe," Spicer replied.