‘Is it always your intention to tell the truth?’: ABC reporter challenges Trump press secretary after weekend berating

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ABC reporter Jonathan Karl pressed White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday over his inaccurate claims about the size of inaugural crowds.

During what President Donald Trump’s team dubbed the “first official press briefing,” Karl confronted Spicer about his Saturday statement that Trump’s inauguration was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” despite contrary evidence.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Spicer conducted his first official White House daily briefing to take questions from the members of the White House press corps.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (L) takes questions during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Spicer conducted his first official White House daily briefing to take questions from the members of the White House press corps.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing January 23, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Rivals Brad Woodhouse (left) and Sean Spicer pose for a photograph outside Bullfeathers in Washington, D.C. on November 08, 2011. Sean Spicer and Brad Woodhouse (spokesmen for the RNC and DNC) hosts Congressional and other flacks to the 1st Annual ‘Flacks for Flacks Who Wear Flak Jackets’ Benefiting Military Public Affairs Officers serving in Afghanistan.

(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, center, attends a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a hallmark of our democracy.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, left, is the new communications director for the Republican National Committee, and Rick Wiley, is the RNC� new political director.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, arrives to a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump today mocked protesters who gathered for large demonstrations across the U.S. and the world on Saturday to signal discontent with his leadership, but later offered a more conciliatory tone, saying he recognized such marches as a ‘hallmark of our democracy.’

(Photo by Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer makes a statement to members of the media at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. This was Spicer’s first press conference as Press Secretary where he spoke about the media’s reporting on the inauguration’s crowd size.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller(L) and Sean Spicer, arrive to meet with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York on January 10, 2017.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer makes a statement to members of the media at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. This was Spicer’s first press conference as Press Secretary where he spoke about the media’s reporting on the inauguration’s crowd size.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer takes a photo with his cell phone on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today’s inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference, updates waiting media on progress of the meeting as House Republicans, eager to put a fresh face on their leadership team as they head into difficult November elections, chose John A. Boehner of Ohio as their new majority leader. Boehner beat out interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt of Missouri on the second ballot, 122-109. John Shadegg of Arizona, a late entrant into the race, was knocked out on the first ballot, when he drew 40 votes to 79 for Boehner and 110 for Blunt. Jim Ryun of Kansas drew two votes.

(Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Sean Spicer, incoming press secretary for President-elect Donald Trump leaves from Trump Tower after meetings on January 5, 2017, in New York.

(KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Chief Strategist and Communications Director at the Republican National Committee, Sean Spicer is interviewed in his office at the committee’s headquarters on Monday August 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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“Is it always your intention to tell the truth on that podium, and do you pledge to never to knowingly say something that is not factual?” Karl asked.

Spicer said that his intention was “never to lie” to reporters, and that the administration and journalists could “disagree on the facts.”

He added: “I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them, and if I make a mistake, I’ll do my best to correct it.”

The crowd size at Friday’s inauguration became the source of debate after Trump asserted on Saturday that more than a million people attended the inauguration.

There are no official government estimates of the crowd size, but independent estimates put the crowd at closer to 250,000 attendees, while photographic evidence comparing Trump’s inauguration to past inaugurations and metro ridership statistics suggested that the number was far lower than the White House claimed.

Spicer also attempted to point out media errors, noting Time reporter Zeke Miller’s inaccurate Friday report that the Marin Luther King Jr. bust in the Oval Office was removed, a brief report that Miller quickly corrected and apologized.

“You’re in the same boat. There are times when you tweet something out or you write a story and you publish a correction. That doesn’t mean that you were intentionally trying to deceived the American people, does it?” Spicer said. “And I think that we should be afforded the same opportunity.”

Spicer claimed that the information he was provided on Saturday was given to him by the inaugural committee that “came from an outside agency,” and highlighted the millions of television and streaming viewers.

The press secretary asserted that he never claimed that the inauguration had the largest in-person audience, saying he always meant the total audience of viewers for the inauguration.

“I didn’t say in person, both in-person and around the globe to witness it,” Spicer said. “I don’t know how I could interpret that differently. That’s literally what I said. To witness it both in person and around the globe.

Later in the press conference, Spicer said that it was “not about the crowd size,” citing commentary and punditry suggesting that Trump could not win key states in the 2016 election.

“There is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has. And I think it is unbelievable frustrating when you’re told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win,” Spicer said.

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Spicer’s comments on Saturday raised concern from a number of former White House officials.

Former President Barack Obama’s second press secretary Jay Carney took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Spicer’s insistence on the crowd size.

During an appearance on CBS on Monday, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher urged Spicer to correct his error.

“It concerns me, it’s one thing to take on the press — that’s a time-honored tradition in Washington, D.C,” Fleisher said.

“The part about how people showed up in the audience at the inauguration, who cares, it’s not worth fighting over.”

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