In a bizarre first briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday unloaded a blistering attack on the media and accused it of false reporting about the otherwise irrelevant question of why Trump's inauguration crowd was visibly smaller than that of Obama's.
Spicer used up virtually all the time in his first official appearance in the Press Briefing Room to denounce news organizations’ focus on the inaugural crowd size, saying “these attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong."
We wouldn't necessarily use those words: silly should suffice since if Trump really wanted to "defend" why fewer people attended his inauguration, he can simply say many more of his supporters are employed and had to be at work on Friday, than during either Obama's 2009 or 2013 inauguration events.
However, the press secretary decided that hyperbole is the better part of valor and said "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the world”
Spicer made the allegation despite photographs of the event clearly showed that the Mall was not full in the sections Spicer described, with dwindling-to-nonexistent crowds near the Smithsonian Institution Building and west toward the Washington Monument. There was also sparse attendance along the parade route from the Capitol to the White House. He alleged that some photos of the inauguration were “intentionally framed in a way” that minimized the crowd, without providing examples or evidence.
No official agency provides estimates of the size of gatherings on the Mall. But photos taken from the same vantage point at about the same time of day show that the crowds were far smaller than for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, which Washington city officials estimated at 1.8 million people.
From same @PressSec stmt:— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) January 21, 2017
1:36 in: “No one had numbers.”
2:25 in: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
Ultimately, the whole press briefing episode had a surreal undertone, one in which Trump, via his speaker, appears to continue to troll the press, now in the White House.
As a seemingly perturbed NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen summarized it "Wow. Sean Spicer walked to the podium. Unloaded on the media for bias. Accused reporters of dishonesty. Walked off without taking questions."
Wow. Sean Spicer walked to the podium. Unloaded on the media for bias. Accused reporters of dishonesty. Walked off without taking questions.— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) January 21, 2017
The reaction among the rest of the press was similar.
Spicer took no questions from reporters and he did not say specifically how many people the White House believes attended the inauguration. He said three large sections of the Mall that each held at least 200,000 people were “full when the president took the oath of office.”
Earlier on Saturday, in remarks at CIA headquarters in Langley, Trump said that from his vantage point at the podium, “it looked like a million, million and a half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there, and they said Donald Trump did not draw well.” Trump also said parts of the National Mall “all the way back to the Washington Monument” were "packed."
Quoted by Bloomberg, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Twitter after Spicer’s remarks that "This is called a statement you’re told to make by the president. And you know the president is watching."
He is indeed, and what he is seeing is that he once again is controlling the media narrative, which is focusing on a very immaterial and arbitrary issue, instead of spending time on investigative work and reporting on far more serious issues relating to Trump's new administration.
Full clip below.