White House press secretary Sean Spicer has withdrawn as a headliner at a Wednesday fundraiser for an Ohio state senator who in October called Donald Trump’s personal conduct “disgusting ” and said the nominee “hasn’t demonstrated to me that he deserves my vote.”
Spicer said he pulled out of the event on Sunday, but neither he nor other administration officials would say why he had agreed to participate in the first place.
An invitation for the Capitol Hill fundraiser, benefiting Ohio Republican Frank LaRose, labeled Spicer a “special guest” and prominently displayed the press secretary’s picture. For the opportunity to spend time with Spicer and LaRose, invitees were asked to donate as much as $1,000.
In an October interview with the Akron Beacon Journal after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, LaRose expressed profound concerns about voting for the Republican nominee.
“What’s come to light in the last couple days is disgusting and appalling, particularly as a father of three little girls,” LaRose, 37, told the paper. “I find it abhorrent.”
The Beacon Journal reported that LaRose refused invitations to attend Trump campaign events, and that he hadn’t decided whom to vote for. “He hasn’t demonstrated to me that he deserves my vote,” he said of the GOP nominee. “And that’s tough for me as a lifelong Republican.”
Spicer and White House officials declined to disclose the White House policy for senior officials invited to appear at political events for Republicans who had been hostile to Trump.
It is unusual for senior White House aides to actively support candidates who have criticized the president, particularly in such harsh terms. It’s unclear whether Trump, who has been cool to many Republicans who spoke out against him during the campaign, was aware of Spicer’s planned attendance.
LaRose, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for secretary of state, had touted Spicer as the main draw for the event.
“Wow, I just got some exciting news and I had to let you know right away,” he wrote atop the invitation, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO. “Sean Spicer has agreed to be my special guest for our fourth annual DC event! I hope you saw my email last week about our upcoming event in Washington DC. Now that I can announce the addition of Sean Spicer as my special guest this great annual event is getting even better! We hope you can join us!”
Reached by phone on Monday, LaRose said he was under the impression that Spicer had dropped out because the fundraiser was the day after Trump’s address before Congress and that the spokesman would be busy. But LaRose added that he hoped to get another event with Spicer on the books soon.
“We’re probably going to be rescheduling in the future,” he said.
LaRose, who represents the northeastern Ohio area, said the article overstated the degree to which he opposed Trump, whom he ended up voting for. But he said he decided against asking for a correction to the story.
Last month, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that LaRose had taken on a role assisting with logistics at the presidential inauguration.
Asked whether Spicer, the public face of the Trump administration, was aware of his comments to the paper, LaRose said he didn’t think he was.
Wednesday afternoon’s event will still take place, he said.