White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer berated media outlets at a press briefing Saturday evening, attacking reports of underwhelming crowd sizes at President Donald Trump’s inauguration and claiming the administration plans to “hold the press accountable.”
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe,” Spicer claimed, contrary to the numerous photos taken of the National Mall on Friday that appeared to show a smaller audience than the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
A visibly irate Spicer claimed the sparse appearance of the crowds was due to the white floor coverings used on the National Mall, which Spicer said had the effect of “highlighting areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.”
Spicer said Friday’s inauguration was the first time the coverings had been used, although media outlets have reported that similar coverings were used in Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
No official estimate has been given for Friday’s crowd size, although the Washington metro authority said its ridership on the morning of the inauguration was down compared to previous inaugurations.
By 11 a.m. on Friday, just 193,000 trips were taken, compared to 317,000 on the same day and time in 2013, 513,000 in 2009, and 197,000 in 2005, WMATA tweeted.
The inauguration crowd also seemed to pale in comparison to the Women’s March, which drew mass amounts of protesters in DC on Saturday, as well as other cities across the country and around the world.
Even former top Trump staffer Brad Parscale, who was digital director during the campaign, appeared to concede the small size of the inauguration crowd in comparison to the Women’s March.
MEDIA we get it. More people showed up for other events. Trump supporters are everyday Americans, $1000/day in D.C. is no joke. #elitists
— Brad Parscale (@parscale) January 21, 2017
At Saturday’s briefing, Spicer also took aim at a Time reporter who had tweeted that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office, although it had actually been placed in a different spot. Spicer called the tweet “irresponsible and reckless,” although the reporter, Zeke Miller, corrected the error and apologized on Friday.
Spicer did not take questions after he finished speaking, and ignored reporters’ shouted requests for comment on the Women’s March.
Spicer also said Trump had phone conversations on Saturday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. He added that Trump will welcome his first foreign leader Thursday, when British Prime Minister Theresa May visits the capital.