The Trump administration is now calling out reporters for their tweets.
On Saturday evening, in the first press briefing of the Trump administration, a combative Press Secretary Sean Spicer called out tweets by reporters for being inaccurate and claimed President Donald Trump had the largest crowd of any inauguration ever, contradicting all available evidence.
Spicer’s claim follows Trump’s assertion on Saturday that 1.5 million people attended his inauguration, far above the 250,000 estimate, which Trump called “a lie.”
The first “egregious example” Spicer cited concerned a tweet from Time magazine reporter Zeke Miller, who tweeted, inaccurately, that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. Miller says he checked to see if it was there twice, but his claim that it was gone later proved to be false. He apologized for the inaccuracy.
Tweeting again: wh aide confirms the MLK bust is still there. I looked for it in the oval 2x & didn't see it. My apologies to my colleagues
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) January 21, 2017
“After it was pointed out that this was just plain wrong, the reporter casually tweeted out that a Secret Service agent must have just been standing in front of it,” Spicer said. “This was irresponsible and reckless.”
The second issue remains more contentious. Spicer claimed that “in one particular tweet” photos of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration had been “intentionally framed in such a way to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.”
Spicer claimed that the white floor coverings used to protect the grass on the National Mall made it appear as though the crowd was smaller than in photos of previous inaugurations when the floor covering was not in use. That is not true. Photos show the white floor coverings were used during Obama’s 2013 inauguration. CNN’s television report showed Getty photos of the floor coverings being installed.
Spicer further claimed that security measures, including the use of magnetometers, prevented “hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.” The U.S. Secret Service tells CNN reporter Jim Acosta that magnetometers were not used. Two senior law enforcement agents also denied the use of magnetometers to New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt.
A USSS spokesperson tells us no magnetometers were used on the National Mall for Trump's inauguration.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 22, 2017
According to two senior law enforcement officials, magnetometers WERE NOT USED in the areas Spicer said they were on the Mall.
— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) January 22, 2017
In addition to claiming that photos of the crowd were misleading, Spicer claimed that some tweets included inaccurate numbers and that “no one had numbers because the National Parks Service, which controls the Mall, did not put any out.” In fact, the National Parks Service was ordered to stop using Twitter altogether after an employee retweeted a New York Times reporter’s photo showing a smaller crowd for Trump than for former President Barack Obama‘s 2009 inauguration.
Spicer also cast doubt on the number of protesters at Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington due to “the same reason,” despite the fact that the march did not solely take place on the Mall lawn.
By Spicer’s calculations, “all” of an area capable of holding a total of 720,000 people “was full when the president took the oath of office.” Spicer further claimed that some 420,000 people took rides on the D.C. Metro on Trump’s inauguration day, claiming that number was higher than on the day of Obama’s 2013 inauguration. In fact, Spicer cited the number of rides on Jan. 20, 2013, that took place as of 11am ET, not of the entire day. As of 11am on the day of Trump’s inauguration, just 193,000 rides had taken place, according to the D.C. Metro.
D.C. Metro did not immediately respond to our request to confirm Spicer’s figure of 420,000 rides on Jan. 20.
Metro Ridership: As of 11am, 193k trips taken so far today. (11am 1/20/13 = 317k, 11am 1/20/09 = 513k, 11am 1/20/05 = 197k) #wmata
— Metro (@wmata) January 20, 2017
Incidentally, the number of rides by 11am on Saturday ahead of the Women’s March was 275,000.
Metro Ridership as of 11am: 275k. For comparison, that's more than 8x a normal Sat & even busier than most weekdays. #wmata #womensmarch
— Metro (@wmata) January 21, 2017
“This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer claimed, without offering evidence. “Both in person and around the globe.”
The crowd size comparison, from 2009 and today. pic.twitter.com/iMYZy9PRK8
— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 20, 2017
Obama is estimated to have drawn 1.8 million people to his 2009 inauguration and 1 million to his 2013 inauguration. Crowd sizes are calculated using aerial photography and satellite imagery along with area and density calculations.
Update 7pm CT, Jan. 21: Law enforcement, including the U.S. Secret Service, deny Spicer’s claim that magnetometers were used as part of National Mall security.