President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, making his first statement in the White House briefing room, slammed the news media on Saturday for trying to “lessen the enthusiasm” of Trump’s inauguration through reporting on crowd size and a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office.
In a combative tone, Spicer insisted that Trump’s swearing in was “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.” But photos clearly show that the crowds did not stretch all the way to the Washington Monument, a contrast to Barack Obama’s 2009 swearing in, when an estimated 1.8 million people attended. Ratings also were lower for Trump’s swearing in than they were in 2009.
Spicer challenged press accounts that compared the size of the crowd on the National Mall for Trump’s inaugural to the numbers who showed up for Barack Obama’s swearing-in in 2009.
Spicer claimed some of the media was engaged in “deliberately false reporting.”
Trump himself claimed that the crowds stretched to the Washington Monument, complaining in a speech at the CIA on Saturday that the media was showing photos of empty spaces on the mall and that “it looked like a million, a million and a half people.”
He said that he has a “running war with the media.”
Spicer contended that security officials were more aggressive in their use of metal detectors, keeping more spectators from witnessing the ceremony.
There is no official estimate of crowd size from the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the National Mall. Some media outlets reported on an unofficial estimate that put the size at 250,000, and a number of media outlets reported that the size of the crowd for Saturday’s Women’s March on Washing at 500,000.
Spicer said that in fact “no one had numbers” of crowd size, but he suggested that the same standard should be applied to the Women’s March. Spicer claimed that “we are going to hold the press accountable as well.” His first official briefing is scheduled for Monday.
Spicer also took issue with a report on Friday that Trump had a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. removed from the Oval Office. Several reporters tweeted it out, based on a pool report. But the pool reporter, Zeke Miller, initially didn’t see the bust as he was in the Oval Office on Friday, and later sent out a correction.
See photos from the Inauguration: