White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer strongly defended the crowd size of President Donald Trump's inauguration on Saturday, using his first official briefing as the administration's spokesman to blast the media for what he called "deliberately false reporting."
In his maiden voyage as the Trump adminstration's chief press liaison, Spicer harangued the press corps for at least four of the five minutes he stood before them. Primarily, he took them to task on the reporting of the number of spectators present at Inauguration Day—using assertions that could be easily refuted by publicly available figures.
"Yesterday at a time when our nation and the world watched the peaceful transition of power ...some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting," he said. Spicer took issue with a tweet from a reporter, whom he did not name, who posted about the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. being removed from the Oval Office—something Spicer flatly denied.
He saved most of his invective for reporting of the inauguration crowd size relative to the throngs that greeted Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, at his 2009 inauguration. Spicer echoed the sentiments expressed by his boss, who at an appearance at the nation's top intelligence hub also blasted the media.
"Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way...to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," Spicer said.
He blamed the protective covering on the grass that created "defective highlighting" and made the crowd appear smaller than it was in actuality. He called reporting of numbers of crowd size "inaccurate," saying the National Park Service doesn't put any of those figures out.
Yet according to figures issued by Washington's transit authority, Metro ridership during Friday's inauguration was the lowest since at least 2005, The Washington Post reported. By 11 am Eastern, approximately 193,000 trips had been taken on the Metro, compared to 513,000 trips at the comparable time in 2009.
Additionally, the grass was covered during Obama's second installation ceremony in January 2013, with media reports and pictures taken at the time showing the lawn at the National Mall covered by protective panels.
That said, Spicer still insisted that the inauguration crowd was "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period, both in person and around the globe."
However, Nielsen ratings data showed that an estimated 31 million Americans watched the transfer of power. That figure was also lower than Barack Obama's first inauguration in 2009, when an estimated 38 million watched, and below the record 41 million that watched Ronald Reagan take his oath of office.
Spicer added that "...these attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," while stating that the president—who met with staff members of the Central Intelligence Agency after weeks of publicly sparring with the agency's findings on Russia's attempts to influence the U.S. general election—was greeted warmly in his maiden visit.
Spicer said Trump's reception at the CIA was "raucous and overflow crowd" and that staffers were "ecstatic...and gave him a five-minute standing ovation" to show their enthusiasm.
He also called on Democrats to stop "playing politics" with Trump's nominee for CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, saying that the Trump administration would "hold the press accountable" for coverage it perceived to be biased or inaccurate.
After spending a brief minute recapping Trump's upcoming meetings with world leaders, Spicer took no questions and departed the area.