WASHINGTON — “That’s what you guys should be writing and covering,” new White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily lectured reporters on Saturday during his first remarks from the podium of the press briefing room.
He was referring to the delay in Senate confirmation for President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA, Congressman Mike Pompeo, but the comment came after a long digression about how many people had shown up to watch Trump be sworn in as president.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer said, contradicting all available data.
Aerial photos have indicated that former president Barack Obama’s first inauguration attracted a much larger crowd. Nielsen ratings show that Obama also had a bigger television audience.
Spicer said, without any evidence, that some photos were “intentionally framed” to downplay Trump’s crowd.
He also expressed objections to specific Twitter posts from journalists. And he said, “We’re going to hold the press accountable,” partly by reaching the public through social networking sites.
His statement included several specific misstatements of fact in addition to the overarching one.
“This is the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall,” Spicer said, claiming that this “had the effect of highlighting areas people were not standing whereas in years past the grass eliminated this visual.”
In fact, coverings were used for Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
“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,” Spicer said.
In fact, a United States Secret Service spokesperson said no magnetometers were used on the Mall.
“We know that 420,000 people used the D.C, Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 for president Obama’s last inaugural,” Spicer said.
Spicer’s number for ridership on Friday was actually low — the correct number, according to Metro itself, was 570,557. But there were actually 782,000 trips taken for Obama’s second inaugural in 2013.
Spicer, at times almost yelling while reading a prepared statement, took no questions. Some longtime White House correspondents were stunned by the tirade.