New White House press secretary Sean Spicer is holding his first formal news briefing Monday after making a string of inflated claims about the size of the crowd Friday at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Late Saturday, Spicer told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”
He offered no documentation for the claim and took no questions from reporters. But his statements on the size of the crowd mirrored Trump’s earlier boast that perhaps as many as 1.5 million watched as he was sworn in as the country’s 45th president.
The U.S. government no longer makes crowd estimates for large gatherings on the National Mall after feuding for years with groups staging events there who often claimed bigger crowds than the officials said had shown up to demonstrate or celebrate some milestone.
But virtually all U.S. media accounts concluded that far fewer people attended Trump’s inauguration, compared to those in 2009 and 2013 for former President Barack Obama.
Widely published photos of Obama’s 2009 swearing-in, when he started his first four-year term, compared with Trump’s inauguration showed a much larger crowd eight years ago, with large swaths of the National Mall nearly empty last Friday. An estimated 1.8 million people jammed the mall for Obama’s first inauguration, while one television network estimated Trump’s crowd at 250,000, although some estimated a bigger crowd.
Whatever the Friday number, other analysts said way more people attended Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, a celebrity-studded event intended as a rebuke to Trump’s ascent to power.
Spicer’s assessment of the crowd size has drawn wide scorn on social media in the United States, with some offering humorous parodies of it, such as, “The groundhog is the most accurate predictor of weather in history. Period. #SpicerFacts.”
Kellyanne Conway, another Trump aide, said Sunday that Spicer was offering “alternative facts” about the crowd size, but repeatedly declined to say why Trump ordered his press secretary to make the erroneous crowd statements.