On its second day in office, the Trump administration debuted its first piece of state propaganda.
Early Saturday evening, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer walked into the White House briefing room, berated reporters for their unpatriotic lies, then left without answering a single question.
The “lie” that most concerned Spicer was, in fact, the objective and unmistakable fact that Donald Trump’s inauguration drew a smaller audience to the National Mall than Barack Obama’s had, in 2009 and 2013.
It is neither surprising, nor (especially) telling that Trump’s crowd was smaller than his predecessor’s. Washington, D.C. is a majority African-American city, and the first black president won its vote overwhelmingly. Trump, by contrast, received a mere 4 percent of the district’s ballots. Thus, Spicer could have chalked up the discrepancy to home-field advantage, and kindly asked the press to note this context in its reporting. Or, better still, he could have refused to defend the president’s ego against the slings and arrows of outrageous reality, and ignored the subject entirely.
Instead, he explained that journalists had “intentionally framed” side-by-side photographs “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,” Spicer explained. “That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing.”
Spicer then claimed that, when Trump took the Oath of Office, the crowd extended all the way back to the Washington Monument, which is a demonstrable lie.
The White House press secretary further bolstered his case by claiming that 420,000 people rode the D.C. Metro on Trump’s Inauguration Day, compared to 317,000 on Obama’s four years ago.
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” Spicer declared.
The D.C. Metro Authority’s initial estimates tell a different story.
As does the authority’s final estimate, per the Washington Post:
Friday’s Metro ridership was the lowest in at least two presidential Inaugurations, and also was lower than that of an average weekday, the agency said Saturday.
Metro said 570,557 people took trips in the system between its early 4 a .m. Friday opening through midnight closing.
The figures are significantly lower than those from the 2009 and 2013 Inaugurations of President Barack Obama; 1.1 million trips in 2009 and 782,000 in 2013, according to Metro.
Spicer then informed the press that Trump had attracted a packed crowd to CIA Headquarters, when he visited earlier in the day. There, Trump described reporters as the “most dishonest human beings on earth,” and accused them of lying about the size of his inauguration crowd.
“They gave him a five-minute standing ovation at the end,” Spicer said, before noting what a shame it is that Senate Democrats still haven’t confirmed Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo.
“That’s what you guys should be writing and covering,” the president’s press secretary informed the gathered reporters. “We’re going to hold the press accountable.”