ABC reporter Jonathan Karl pressed White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday over his inaccurate claims about the size of inaugural crowds.
During what President Donald Trump’s team dubbed the “first official press briefing,” Karl confronted Spicer about his Saturday statement that Trump’s inauguration was the “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe,” despite contrary evidence
“Is it always your intention to tell the truth on that podium, and do you pledge to never to knowingly say something that is not factual?” Karl asked.
Spicer said that his intention was “never to lie” to reporters, and that the administration and journalists could “disagree on the facts.”
“There are times we believe something to be true or we get something from an agency or we act in haste because the information available wasn’t complete, but our desire to communicate with the American people and make sure you have the most complete story at the time, so we do it,” Spicer said.
He added: “I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them, and if I make a mistake, I’ll do my best to correct it.”
Spicer also attempted to point out media errors, noting Time reporter Zeke Miller’s inaccurate Friday report that the Marin Luther King Jr. bust in the Oval Office was removed, a brief report that Miller quickly corrected and apologised.
“You’re in the same boat. There are times when you tweet something out or you write a story and you publish a correction. That doesn’t mean that you were intentionally trying to deceived the American people, does it?” Spicer said. “And I think that we should be afforded the same opportunity.”
Spicer claimed that the information he was provided on Saturday was given to him by the inaugural committee that “came from an outside agency,” and highlighted the millions of television and streaming viewers.
The press secretary asserted that he never claimed that the inauguration had the largest in-person audience, saying he always meant the total audience of viewers for the inauguration.
“I didn’t say in person, both in-person and around the globe to witness it,” Spicer said. “I don’t know how I could interpret that differently. That’s literally what I said. To witness it both in person and around the globe.
Later in the press conference, Spicer said that it was “not about the crowd size,” citing commentary and punditry suggesting that Trump could not win key states in the 2016 election.
“There is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has. And I think it is unbelievable frustrating when you’re told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win,” Trump said.
Spicer’s comments on Saturday raised concern from a number of former White House officials.
Former President Barack Obama’s second press secretary Jay Carney took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Spicer’s insistence on the crowd size.
During an appearance on CBS on Monday, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher urged Spicer to correct his error.
“It concerns me, it’s one thing to take on the press — that’s a time-honored tradition in Washington, D.C,” Fleisher said.
“The part about how people showed up in the audience at the inauguration, who cares, it’s not worth fighting over.”
Wrong. The President I worked for never told me to lie. Ever. And I doubt Pres. Bush ever told @AriFleischer to lie. Today was not normal. https://t.co/MWLx6a1Nwf
— Jay Carney (@JayCarney) January 22, 2017
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