President Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, on Saturday used his first media briefing to angrily lambaste the press for its coverage of the new administration, claiming reporters had deliberately sought to minimize the “enormous” crowd at Trump’s swearing-in on Friday.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period — both in person and around the globe,” Spicer said. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”
Channeling Trump’s frequently voiced disdain for the media, Spicer said that there has been a lot of talk about holding the new president accountable for his actions. But Spicer said that “goes both ways.”
“We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” Spicer said. “The American people deserve better.”
In a highly unusual move, Spicer left the briefing without taking questions, ignoring reporters who shouted questions at him about the massive crowd in town for the Women’s March on Washington, which was designed to protest Trump’s presidency.
Spicer’s comments on crowd size echoed those of his boss a couple of hours earlier, when Trump appeared at the CIA headquarters in Virginia. Trump said that the “dishonest” media had underreported a crowd that, from the dais, he said “looked like a million, a million and a half people.”
Spicer walked through numbers of people that various sections of the area in front of Trump were believed to hold in making a case that media estimates were too low.
The area between the platform where Trump spoke and 4th Street held 250,000 people, Spicer said. The area between 4th Street and a media tent held another 220,000, he said. And the area between the tent and the Washington Monument could hold 250,000.
“All of this space was full when the president took the oath of office,” Spicer asserted.
He also noted that for the first time there was a white covering on the Mall to protect it, which Spicer said accentuated empty spaces in photos of the crowd.
And he said that more people used the Metro system in Washington for Trump’s inaugural than for Obama’s 2013 swearing-in. That conflicted with information released Saturday by Metro.
The agency said people took 570,557 trips in the system between its early 4 a .m. Friday opening through midnight closing. That compared with 1.1 million trips for Obama’s 2009 inaugural and 782,000 in 2013, according to Metro.
Spicer also took a reporter to task for having said on Twitter on Friday that Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from his office. The reporter later acknowledged he was mistaken and apologized.
Spicer called the episode “irresponsible and reckless.”
Spicer also criticized Democrats in the Senate, saying they were “playing politics with national security” by not allowing Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), to be confirmed on Friday afternoon after Trump took office.
Spicer said it was “a shame” that a CIA director was not in place when Trump visited on Saturday.