Donald Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, used his first White House press briefing to attack the "irresponsible and reckless" press over what he called "deliberately false reporting" around the inauguration.
Contradicting all available evidence, he insisted the President's swearing-in was watched by the "largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," and suggested reporters "intentionally framed" their photographs of the event to make it look poorly-attended.
He also falsely claimed that white floor coverings were being used at the inauguration for the first time (thus making gaps in the crowd more visible – but they were also present in 2013), incorrectly stated the crowd was thinned out by bomb detectors (which weren't present on the Mall), and cited a since-corrected story about a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. being removed from the Oval Office as proof of media bias.
Mr Spicer, who is also a commander in the US Navy Reserve and President Trump's Communications Director, went on to discuss President Trump's recent visit to the CIA office.
"That's what you guys should be writing and covering, instead of sowing division about tweets and false narratives," he said. Concluding, he incorrectly referred to Mexican President Peña Nieto as a Prime Minister, and said President Trump's first meeting with a foreign leader would be with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mr Spicer then left the podium, ignoring shouted questions from journalists. Correspondents attempted to challenge his claims over the size of the crowd and ask the Press Secretary about the Women's March on Washington, but received no response.
Here's the full transcript of his speech:
"Good evening. Thank you guys for coming. I know our first official press briefing is going to be on Monday, but I wanted to give you a few updates on the President's activities. But before I get to the news of the day, I think I'd like to discuss a little bit of the coverage of the last 24 hours.
Yesterday, at a time when our nation and the world was watching the peaceful transition of power and, as the President said, the transition and the balance of power from Washington to the citizens of the United States, some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting. For all the talk about the proper use of Twitter, two instances yesterday stand out.
One was a particular egregious example in which a reporter falsely tweeted out that the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. After it was pointed out that this was just plain wrong, the reporter casually reported and tweeted out and tried to claim that a Secret Service agent must have just been standing in front of it. This was irresponsible and reckless.
Secondly, photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. This was the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual.
This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.
Inaccurate numbers involving crowd size were also tweeted. No one had numbers, because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out. By the way, this applies to any attempts to try to count the number of protestors today in the same fashion.
We do know a few things, so let's go through the facts. We know that from the platform where the President was sworn in, to Fourth Street holds about 250,000 people. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000. And from the media tent to the Washington Monument, another, another 250,000 people. All of this space was full when the President took the Oath of Office. We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama's last inaugural.
This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe. Even the New York Times printed a photograph showing a misrepresentation of the crowd in the original Tweet in their paper, which showed the full extent of the support, depth in crowd, and intensity that existed.
These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong. The President was also at the… as you know, the President was also at the Central Intelligence Agency and greeted by a raucous overflow crowd of some 400-plus CIA employees. There were over 1,000 requests to attend, prompting the President to note that he'll have to come back to greet the rest.
The employees were ecstatic that he's the new Commander-in-Chief, and he delivered them a powerful and important message. He told them he has their back, and they were grateful for that. They gave him a five-minute standing ovation at the end in a display of their patriotism and their enthusiasm for his presidency.
I'd also note that it's a shame that the CIA didn’t have a CIA Director to be with him today when he visited, because the Democrats have chosen… Senate Democrats are stalling the nomination of Mike Pompeo and playing politics with national security. That's what you guys should be writing and covering, instead of sowing division about tweets and false narratives.
The President is committed to unifying our country, and that was the focus of his inaugural address. This kind of dishonesty in the media, the challenging that bringing about our nation together is making it more difficult.
There's been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I'm here to tell you that it goes two ways. We're going to hold the press accountable, as well. The American people deserve better. And as long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people where his focus will always be.
And with that, a few other updates from the day. The President had a constructive conversation with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada about strengthening the relationship between our two nations. They also discussed setting up additional meetings in the days to come, which we will follow up on. He also spoke to Prime Minister Peña Nieto of Mexico, and talked about a visit on trade, immigration and security that will occur on the 31st. The President will welcome his first foreign leader this Thursday when the United Kingdom's Theresa May will come to Washington on Friday.
And tomorrow, the President will oversee his assistants to the President being sworn in. The staff will then have an ethics briefing, and be… a briefing on the proper use and handling of classified information. Further updates as far as what he will do? Oh, and then in the evening, he will have a reception for law enforcement and first responders that helped support the inauguration.
Thank you guys for being here tonight. I will see you on Monday."
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