Sean Spicer, Donald Trump‘s press secretary, called a press conference at the White House to make a statement on January 21 about media reports on the size of the crowd that turned out for the inauguration. Spicer sounded combative and angry towards the assembled reporters, and only spoke for a few minutes before leaving. Kellyanne Conway later defended Spicer’s comments as “alternative facts.”
The statement was supposed to start at 4:30 p.m., but it began closer to 6 p.m. ET. This was Spicer’s first press conference from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
Photos of the inauguration were behind his lectern before he spoke, indicating that Spicer planned on talking about the “deliberately false reporting” about the size of the crowd. Spicer’s statement lasted just a few minutes and he did not take any questions from the media. He also called it “reckless” for a journalist to report that Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office when that wasn’t the case.
“This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” Spicer told the press.
Before leaving the podium, Spicer vowed to keep the press “accountable as well,” adding that, “The American people deserve better and as long as [Trump] serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people, where his focus will always be.”
Spicer then listed updates about the President’s first full day in office, as well as planned conversations with the leaders of Mexico and the U.K. before leaving the podium. Reporters shouted questions, but Spicer did not respond.
During his press conference on Monday, Spicer took questions from journalists for the first time and was repeatedly asked about his comments on the crowd size. He said that he did not mean to say that the inauguration had the largest in-person audience ever, but was referring to the total audience that watched the inauguration in-person, on television and via online streaming.
The Saturday press conference was called moments after Trump spoke at the CIA, where he insisted that the media under-reported the number of people who showed up for his inauguration. Trump estimates that between a million and 1.5 million people were there. Trump also referred to the media as “dishonest” during the speech.
Photos of the National Mall show that there were areas empty compared to Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. It’s estimated that 1.8 million people showed up for Obama’s inauguration. It’s estimated that just 250,000 people attended Trump’s inauguration. The New York Times reports that crowd scientists estimate that less than 200,000 people were there.
On Meet The Press, Conway defended Spicer’s comments about the inauguration crowd size, calling it “alternative facts.”
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” Conway told NBC News’ Chuck Todd. “I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or another. There’s no way to quantify crowd numbers.”