Trump Press Secretary berates media, makes dubious boasts about inauguration crowd size

Secretary Sean Spicer berated media outlets at a press briefing Saturday evening, attacking reports of underwhelming crowd sizes at President Donald Trump’s inauguration and claiming the administration plans to “hold the press accountable.”

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe,” Spicer claimed, contrary to the numerous photos taken of the National Mall on Friday that appeared to show a smaller audience than the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

A visibly irate Spicer claimed the sparse appearance of the crowds was due to the white floor coverings used on the National Mall, which Spicer said had the effect of “highlighting areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.”

Spicer said Friday’s inauguration was the first time the coverings had been used, although media outlets have reported that similar coverings were used in Obama’s 2013 inauguration.

No official estimate has been given for Friday’s crowd size, although the Washington metro authority said its ridership on the morning of the inauguration was down compared to previous inaugurations.

By 11 a.m. on Friday, just 193,000 trips were taken, compared to 317,000 on the same day and time in 2013, 513,000 in 2009, and 197,000 in 2005, WMATA tweeted.

The inauguration crowd also seemed to pale in comparison to the Women’s March, which drew mass amounts of protesters in DC on Saturday, as well as other cities across the country and around the world.

Even former top Trump staffer Brad Parscale, who was digital director during the campaign, appeared to concede the small size of the inauguration crowd in comparison to the Women’s March.

At Saturday’s briefing, Spicer also took aim at a Time reporter who had tweeted that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office, although it had actually been placed in a different spot. Spicer called the tweet “irresponsible and reckless,” although the reporter, Zeke Miller, corrected the error and apologized on Friday.

Spicer did not take questions after he finished speaking, and ignored reporters’ shouted requests for comment on the Women’s March.

Spicer also said Trump had phone conversations on Saturday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. He added that Trump will welcome his first foreign leader Thursday, when British Prime Minister Theresa May visits the capital.

Associated Press. White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks in the press briefing room at the White House, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington.

Donald Trump's press secretary attacks media over 'shameful and wrong' inauguration crowd reports

White House press secretary Sean Spicer has chided the news media for what he called "deliberate false reporting" regarding the attendance at President Donald Trump's inauguration.

Taking his first press briefing at the White House Mr Spicer spoke for about 10 minutes and then walked out without taking any questions.

"Yesterday, at a time when our nation and the world was watching the peaceful transition of power ... some members of the media were engaged in deliberate and false reporting."

Mr Spicer first pointed out an erroneous report from a pool reporter that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr had been removed form the Oval Office. That report was corrected prior to Mr Spicer's statement.

He launched into a lengthy explanation over photos on social media, contrasting the attendance of the 2017 inauguration to the attendance at Barack Obama's 2009 swearing in, claiming that Mr Trump had the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration". He later qualified that by saying that the audience figures included those attending and those watching around the world.

Nielsen estimates that 31 million viewers watched TV coverage of President Trump's inauguration. That is better than Mr Obama's second inauguration but well short of his first.

The most-watched inauguration since 1969 was President Ronald Reagan's first oath-taking in 1981, which was seen by 41.8 million people. The audience total measures continuous coverage by 12 broadcast and cable networks.

In 2013, 20.6 million viewed Mr Obama's second inauguration. His first inauguration, in 2009, was seen by 37.8 million people.

"Photographs of the inauguration process were intentionally framed in a way ... to minimise the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," he said.

"This was the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings had been used to protect the grass on the Mall that had the effect highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period – both in person and remote."

Similar coverings were used on the Mall during Mr Obama's inauguration in 2013.

Estimates place attendance of Mr Trump's inauguration at around 250,000, although there are no official figures.

Mr Spicer said: “No one had numbers because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put those out,” he said.

In 2009, about 1.8 million people attended. Aerial photographs of the two events show a marked difference between 2009 and 2017.

"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," the Press Secretary said.

Mr Spicer also said that the Trump administration were “going to hold the press accountable,” partly by reaching the public through social networking sites.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 demonstrators marched on the nation's capital the day after the presidential inauguration – and hundreds of thousands and possibly millions more took to the streets in all 50 states and around the globe.

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