All the ‘alternative facts’ Sean Spicer gave at his first official press briefing

Incorrect statements continue on day one of the new administration

Rachael Revesz
New York
Monday 23 January 2017 21:53
Mr Spicer had a lower podium on Monday to improve the perception of his accessibility to the press
Mr Spicer had a lower podium on Monday to improve the perception of his accessibility to the press

Sean Spicer’s first official press briefing at the White House was much longer than the last one and, by most accounts, much better.

Determined to put right his relationship with the press after a short and terse exchange on Saturday, he smiled and joked on Monday afternoon that he was prepared to stay longer than they would.

He even took questions from reporters he had previously been in feuds with, including CNN’s Jim Acosta.

He said he would honour his pledge to never tell reporters lies. His podium was lowered on Monday, perhaps improving the visual of an open and transparent press secretary. The full list of questionable, unproven facts and untruths are available below.

1) The Inauguration crowd size was the largest in history

The longest answer to a reporter's question was, by far, on how the press reported the crowd size of the Inauguration.

He said on Saturday that it was the biggest crowd in American history and he insisted two days later that the statement was true, if one takes viewing figures on television and online into account.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer lays into media for 'false' inauguration reporting

2) There were no Trump supporters at the CIA meeting

A new report from CBS confirmed that there were Trump supporters in the audience who prompted the claps and cheers during the President’s speech, which focused on the "dishonest media" and the crowd size on his big day, rather than celebrating the intelligence community.

But Mr Spicer said there was only CIA members in the "front row" of the meeting, no supporters.

The supporters may have been interspersed throughout the crowd or off-camera, found CBS, and the meeting only served to deepen the "unease" of intelligence officials about the President.

3) Theresa May is the head of state of the UK

As Mr Trump would say - "wrong".

The head of the state is the Queen and Ms May is the Prime Minister. Mr Spicer said the President was excited to meet her on Friday.

Sean Spicer: "I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts"

4) There are several versions of the unemployment rate

Asked directly what the unemployment rate was, Mr Spicer replied that there were "several versions" from the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

Mr Spicer said the President was "not focused on statistics", rather he looked at whether "people are doing better off".

For January, the national unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent. The labour force participation rate was 62.7 per cent.

5) Bilateral deals is most of what China has been engaging in

Mr Trump vowed on Monday, as he abandoned TPP, that future trade deals would be "one on one".

Mr Spicer provided a similar line, saying that China has "mostly been engaging in" bilateral trade deals.

In truth, China has mostly engaged in non-bilateral trade deals, including negotiations with the European Union, the World Trade Organisation and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

6) Michael Flynn only had two calls with the Russian ambassador

"There's been one call. I talked to General Flynn about this again last night," said Mr Spicer.

The press secretary said they discussed four topics: Christmas greetings, a plane crash, action in Syria and setting up future talks.

He then added: "I don't believe that [talk] has been set up yet. They did follow up, I'm sorry, two days ago about how to facilitate that call, once again. So there have been a total of two calls with the ambassador and General Flynn."

The Associate Press previously reported that the new national security adviser, retired general Michael Flynn, had been in frequent contact with Russia’s ambassador to the US, including on the day that former President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for election-related hacking.

Mr Spicer made clear that all information had been given to him by Mr Flynn himself.

The US intelligence community is reportedly investigating Mr Flynn’s communications with Russia. Mr Spicer said that the President had given no indication he would stop such an investigation.

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