Media Botches Hit Piece on White House Press Secretary

EXCLUSIVE: Sean Spicer doesn't spend that much money on cinnamon gum

Sean Spicer
White House press secretary Sean Spicer / AP
January 27, 2017

Exhibiting a complete lack of creativity, everybody in the media decided that this week was the time to make a big deal of the fact that White House press secretary Sean Spicer told the Washington Post in August that he chews and swallows a massive amount of Orbit's cinnamon flavored gum.

A Google news search of "cinnamon gum" leads to numerous stories written this week about the press secretary's habit, which Spicer has said has been cleared by his personal doctor. Trevor Noah even took time out of his failing broadcast to "mercilessly skewer" Spicer for chewing so much gum.

Some outlets such as Washingtonian, which put six reporters on the task of analyzing Spicer's gum habit, went as far as questioning the financial wisdom of burning through so much gum in one day, positing that Spicer could be spending up to $1,359.63 each year on gum.

"That much gum could add up to serious financial investment over time," wrote the team of journalists.

A Huffington Post reporter, who was able to get through only a single pack of gum and "belched frequently" while doing so, similarly noted in her piece on Orbit's cinnamon gum that the "habit is expensive."

"Three packs of gum cost over $5, which is more than a latte," she wrote.

The White House tells the Washington Free Beacon that estimates of Spicer's gum expenditures far exceed his actual spending.

Spicer, a commander in the U.S. Navy, says that he buys his gum through a military commissary where goods are sold at cost. He can get a three-pack of Orbit for just $2.20, which comes out to about 73 cents per pack. Using the two and a half packs of gum per day rate posited by the Washingtonian, the habit would cost Spicer about $800 annually.

Contrary to the Huffington Post's report, the cost of the three-pack is actually less than what a "tall" latte would cost from Starbucks. Spicer does not drink upscale drinks from Starbucks, according to his office.

A Starbucks latte habit could set an individual back about $1,460 per year. The average American is believed to spend around $1,100 on coffee each year, according to studies.

In an interview with the Free Beacon, an experienced data journalist questioned the decision by media outlets to even consider that such a regular gum-user would be purchasing the product by the individual pack.

"When you are putting together models based on data, you have to put a considerable amount of time into making sure that your model is based on the most likely set of parameters," said the data journalist. "Nobody who chews gum as regularly as Spicer would buy packages that were sold separately."

To the Washingtonian's credit, the amount that would have been spent annually was also calculated under the assumption that Spicer ordered gum in bulk through Amazon ($574.88, the site found). A survey conducted by the Free Beacon, however, found that purchasing gum through the internet is extremely unlikely.

"Who buys gum online?" said one individual surveyed in the Free Beacon's newsroom.