It was the Emmys moment everyone was talking about ... but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Sean Spicer’s surprise appearance at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, where he seemingly made light of the time he lied about the crowd size at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, shocked just about everyone.
“This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period,” Spicer said from behind a podium he wheeled onto the stage.
Then came the backlash. The appearance drew a slew of responses online, and most of it was critical, according to social media research firm Fizziology.
So how did it even happen?
CNN reports that the idea to bring in Spicer came from Emmys host Stephen Colbert, and he and producers anticipated there would be backlash. It all came together days before the show, when Colbert “wondered aloud if Spicer might play along.” According to the report, one of his producers then formally pitched the idea.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter on how it came together, Spicer said, “I had a conversation with Stephen [Colbert] and his executive producer.” He continued, “They came up with a concept, and I thought it was kinda funny. I said I’d be there.”
The former White House press secretary later told Deadline the appearance was an “opportunity to be a little self-deprecating and laugh at yourself.”
Though, many didn’t see the humor.
Melissa McCarthy, who famously played Spicer on “SNL” and was caught by Emmys cameras during Spicer’s cameo, previously said that the former White House press secretary shouldn’t be in on the jokes about him.
On Monday, her rep told HuffPost she couldn’t comment on Spicer’s appearance because she was “working on a film,” but plenty of other celebrities shared their unflattering reactions.
For example, actor Zach Braff said he’s not ready to laugh “with” Spicer, calling him evil:
Actress Jenny Slate stated she was “truly so grossed out” anyone would consider having the real-life Spicer there, adding, “What is wrong with you? Wake up.”
Some publications posted takedowns following the appearance, such as The New York Times’ “The Shameful Embrace of Sean Spicer at the Emmys” or The Daily Beast’s “Sean Spicer at the Emmys: Don’t Make This Guy a Folk Hero.”
Many critics of the moment said the Emmys played a hand in “normalizing” Spicer, which is similar to the criticism Jimmy Fallon faced after inviting Trump on his show for an interview, during which the host tousled the now-president’s hair.
However, according to the CNN report, Colbert wasn’t worried about that perception:
“Donald Trump normalized Spicer,” a source involved in the production said.
The negative criticism was strong, but it wasn’t universal. Speaking on the moment backstage, actor Alec Baldwin, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump presidency and had just won an Emmy for essentially mocking the president on “SNL,” said, “People in the business and the average person is very grateful for him to have a sense of humor and participate.”
He continued, “Spicer obviously was compelled to do certain things that we might not have respected, we might not have admired, we might have been super critical of in order to do his job, but I’ve done some jobs that are things that you shouldn’t admire or respect me for either. He and I have that in common.”
In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Spicer said he regretted criticizing “accurate news reports” that the crowd for former President Barack Obama’s inauguration was bigger than the one for Trump’s.
“Of course I do, absolutely,” said Spicer.
Representatives for Spicer, Colbert, CBS and the Emmys did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.