White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer used his first appearance in the White House briefing room to unequivocally rebuke the press and accuse reporters of misreporting the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Spicer claimed that photos of the inaugural crowd on the National Mall did not accurately reflect the number of people who attended the event on Friday. However, photos of Trump’s inauguration showed that the crowd was significantly smaller than it was at Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Spicer also criticized a report from White House reporters saying Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. The report was later corrected.
Spicer accused members of the media of engaging in “deliberately false reporting” on Trump’s inauguration. The comments from the White House’s chief spokesman signal that he will not hesitate to dispute facts and does not intend to back down from taking a combative stance against the press, which the administration has already threatened to relocate from its current space in the White House.
“Photographs of that inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” Spicer said.
He claimed that the crowd on the Mall stretched from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, although photos clearly show that it did not. Spicer said fences and magnetometers had prevented attendees from getting to the Mall quickly. He also claimed that white protectors for the grass had been used for the “first time in our nation’s history” and highlighted where people were not standing.
However, workers rushed to install grass protections ahead of former President Barack Obama’s 2013 inauguration, NBC Washington reported at the time. And the Secret Service said magnetometers weren’t used on Friday, CNN’s Jim Acosta reported.
Spicer’s comments came after Trump, without prompting, spent a lengthy amount of time during a visit to the CIA earlier in the day complaining about press coverage of his inauguration. Even though the president has an unmatched ability to drive news coverage, Spicer accused the press of focusing on trivial details.
Spicer called the inauguration reporting “shameful and wrong,” and Trump said earlier in the day that the media would “pay a big price” for it.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness and inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. However, his television ratings alone were lower than those for the inaugurations of Obama in 2009 and Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Spicer also claimed that 420,000 people took the Metro for Trump’s inauguration, and that fewer people had used the public transportation system to attend Obama’s inauguration in 2013. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority reported that 193,000 trips had been taken as of 11 a.m. Friday ― reportedly fewer trips than were taken either day Obama was inaugurated.
CNN, a network that Trump has repeatedly criticized, did not air the press conference live.