White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer appeared before media on Monday for the first official press briefing, two days after he caused an uproar for lying to reporters about the crowd size at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Spicer opened his briefing Monday with a few jokes about the incident on Saturday, but no one laughed. A reporter asked Spicer if it was his intention “to always tell the truth from that podium.”
“It is,” Spicer answered, but added that “Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.”
But then he went on to continue disputing facts regarding the number of people on the National Mall for Trump’s swearing in. Spicer also equated his misreporting of the crowd size to a journalist who reported that Trump had removed the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the oval office. In fact, the bust remains in the office, and the reporter corrected his error.
“I'm going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them. If we make a mistake, we'll do our best to correct it,” Spicer said. “As I mentioned the other day, it is a two-way street. There are many mistakes that the media make all the time.”
Spicer, who on Saturday didn’t take any questions after delivering a statement to reporters, indicated the Trump administration’s combative relationship with the press is not likely to calm any time soon.
Media outlets expressed outrage following Spicer’s press conference Saturday, where he appeared before journalists to admonish them for reporting on the number of people who had showed up for Trump’s inauguration. Spicer objected to aerial photos that were being shared on Twitter that clearly showed the crowds gathered to see former President Barack Obama be sworn in in 2009 were larger than those Trump drew Friday. Spicer claimed Trump’s was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” which is not true.
According to Politifact, the crowd estimate for Trump’s ceremony on Friday was between 250,000 and 600,000. In 2009, 1.8 million people watched Obama take the oath of office on the National Mall.
Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway responded to the outrage Sunday, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd Spicer was giving “alternative facts.” She, like Spicer, also attempted to argue that it was impossible to quantify the exact number of people on the National Mall while continuing to assert it was the largest crowd ever.
Spicer said Monday the White House would be opening four “Skype seats” in the briefing room so that journalists who aren’t in or near Washington can attend virtually.
“We are opening up a diverse group of journalists from around the country,” Spicer said. “I think this can benefit us all by giving a platform to voices not necessarily based here in the Beltway.”
There had been reports that the seating chart in the briefing room would be changed, but Monday’s assignments remained the same.