Following demonstrably false statements made by President Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that Trump's inauguration ceremony had “the largest audience to witness an inauguration," pro-Trump propaganda outlets amplified the lies while more mainstream conservative figures provided cover for the lies by casting doubt on available evidence.
Trump And His Administration Made A “Series Of False Statements” During First Full Day Of Presidency
NY Times: Trump Falsely Accused Journalists Of “Inventing A Rift Between Him And Intelligence Agencies” And Lied About Crowd Size At His Inauguration Ceremony. The New York Times reported that during a visit to the CIA headquarters, President Donald Trump falsely accused the press of “inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.” Later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a briefing where he “scolded reporters and made a series of false statements” about the inauguration crowd size, including that Trump drew “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.” The Times noted that “photographs clearly show [Spicer’s statement] to be false.” From the January 21 report:
President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.
In a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency intended to showcase his support for the intelligence community, Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.
He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.
Later, at the White House, he dispatched Sean Spicer, the press secretary, to the briefing room in the West Wing, where Mr. Spicer scolded reporters and made a series of false statements.
He said news organizations had deliberately misstated the size of the crowd at Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Friday in an attempt to sow divisions at a time when Mr. Trump was trying to unify the country, warning that the new administration would hold them to account.
Mr. Spicer said that Mr. Trump had drawn “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” a statement that photographs clearly show to be false. [New York Times, 1/21/17]
PolitiFact Debunks Spicer’s False Claim That Inauguration Crowd “Was The Largest Audience To Witness An Inauguration, Period.” PolitiFact wrote that “Spicer offered a few pieces of misleading or inaccurate evidence” regarding the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration and debunked his evidence, rating the claims “Pants on Fire”:
Spicer said, “That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.”
To support his claim, Spicer offered a few pieces of misleading or inaccurate evidence.
He said that floor coverings highlighting empty spaces on the National Mall were not used for previous inaugurations, but these were in place for Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
He claimed metro ridership was higher for Trump’s inaugural than for Obama’s 2013 inaugural, but he compared numbers for the morning of Obama’s inaugural to the whole day for Trump’s.
Spicer suggested 720,000 attended Trump’s inauguration, while organizers said they expected 700,000 to 900,000, and Trump himself estimated 1.5 million. All of those figures are less than the 1.8 million people who attended Obama’s 2009 inaugural.
We rate Spicer’s claim Pants on Fire. [PolitiFact, 1/21/17]
Pro-Trump Media Attempt To Defend And Amplify Trump Administration Lies In The Face Of All Available Evidence
Breitbart.com Pushes Trump Press Secretary Lies As Fact. Breitbart reported Spicer’s false claims about crowd size as fact, writing that “Spicer further noted that the media had attempted to paint Trump’s inauguration as appearing much smaller than President Barack Obama’s.” The report concluded by calling Spicer’s statement “criticism of the media’s fake news reporting.” From the January 21 report:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held an emergency press briefing on Saturday where he lit into the media for their “egregious” and “deliberately false reporting” of Friday’s inauguration of President Donald Trump and his first day in office.
Spicer further noted that the media had attempted to paint Trump’s inauguration as appearing much smaller than President Barack Obama’s.
Spicer’s criticism of the media’s fake news reporting resulted in a media meltdown on social media. [Breitbart.com, 1/21/17]
OANN: Spicer “Blasts Media For Biased Reporting On Trump.” Pro-Trump outlet One America News Network reacted to the news conference by praising Spicer on Twitter and asserting that he “blast[ed] media for biased reporting”:
RSBN Responds To Spicer: “You All Know That The Media Never Shows The True Crowd Size.” Following the press conference, the pro-Trump Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) tweeted at an official Team Trump account, Spicer, and White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino that “you all know that the media never shows the true crowd size- we are the only one that ever moved our cam!”:
Gateway Pundit: “Spicer Set The Record Straight By Saying Donald Trump’s Inauguration Had A Record Number Of People Watching!” Taking Spicer's lies at face value, pro-Trump website Gateway Pundit -- which frequently publishes fake news -- reported that “White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer held a briefing at the White House on Saturday and he set the tone letting the media know that their lies will no longer be considered respected journalism,” adding, “Good for Spicer!” [The Gateway Pundit, 1/21/17]
Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones: Attendance “Was Probably The Biggest Ever.” InfoWars’ Alex Jones claimed that an attempt was made to “block” people from attending the ceremony but still asserted the event “was probably the biggest ever.” Jones also called accurate claims about past Trump comments about U.S. intelligence agencies “made up”:
[Alex Jones via Facebook, 1/21/17]
Prominent Conservatives Downplay The Significance Of First Trump Admin. Press Briefing Being Filled With Lies
Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume: “Time To Get Past The Arguments Over Crowd Size.” Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume echoed the Trump administration’s overstated attendance at the inauguration by tweeting that the “area was considerably fuller by time of speech.” The morning following Spicer’s press conference, Hume wrote on Twitter, “OK, it's a new day. Time to get past the arguments over crowd size”:
Conservative Radio Host Hugh Hewitt Spins For Spicer. Conservative radio host and television pundit Hugh Hewitt cited “elusive” “online audience numbers” to cast doubts on the number of inauguration viewers not watching the ceremony in person: