White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has attracted widespread criticism for “a series of false statements” he made about the size of the crowds at the presidential inauguration. Prior to Spicer’s meltdown, however, some media figures were full of praise for the “competent, thorough” “straight shooter.” Later, other media figures credited him for a supposed “reboot” in his first official press briefing as White House press secretary.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Attacked Media, Flagrantly Lied About Inaugural Crowd Size
NY Times: “Spicer Scolded Reporters And Made A Series Of False Statements” About Trump’s Inaugural Crowd. On January 21, The New York Times reported that press secretary Sean Spicer used “false statements” to accuse the media of “deliberately misstat[ing]” the size of the crowds for the presidential inauguration “in an attempt to sow divisions” in the country. Despite Spicer’s “warning” to the press, Trump’s inaugural crowd was indeed “dwarfed” by the protests against him:
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.
The statements from the new president and his spokesman came as hundreds of thousands of people protested against Mr. Trump, a crowd that appeared to dwarf the one that gathered the day before when he was sworn in. It was a striking display of invective and grievance at the dawn of a presidency, usually a time when the White House works to set a tone of national unity and to build confidence in a new leader. [The New York Times, 1/21/17]
Wash. Post’s Mark Berman: “Here’s The Blatant Falsehood @SeanSpicer Just Said, And Here’s A Splitscreen Showing Attendance In 2009 Vs. 2017.”
Wash. Post’s Dave Weigel: Spicer Is “A Liar, And Not A Very Good One.”
Spicer’s Abysmal Performance Spawned A Meme About Dubious Facts
Wash. Post: Spicer’s Blatant Falsehoods Inspired The Meme #SeanSpicerSays. After Spicer “espoused a few easily disproved facts during his first news conference,” the internet birthed the hashtags #SeanSpicerSays and #SeanSpicerFacts to make fun of blatant, obvious lies:
Angered by the media's portrayal of inauguration crowds, President Trump's new press secretary, Sean Spicer, espoused a few easily disproved facts during his first news conference — eliciting groans from critics wary of four years of what Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway referred to as “alternative facts."
But a few brave souls chose to go high on social media and look at the positive aspects of living in Spicer's world. How wonderful would it be to use #AlternativeFacts in our everyday lives. It could be the best news since “post-truth" became an official phrase last year.
And just like that, #SeanSpicerSays and #SeanSpicerFacts were born.
And The Post's Fact Checker gave Spicer Four Pinocchios, adding “we wish we could give five," after examining his other statements.
After his remarks on Saturday, Spicer refused to take questions and strode off the stage, apparently unaware that he had just become a meme.
[The Washington Post, 1/22/17]
Before Spicer’s Embarrassing Performance, Numerous Media Figures Lauded His Appointment As A “Straight Shooter” And “A Sign” Of “More Access” For The Media
US News: Spicer As Press Secretary “Is A Sign” Trump Will “Likely Adhere To Some Of The Traditions And Norms Of White House Coverage.” On December 22, US News & World Report heralded Spicer’s selection as press secretary as “a sign the incoming administration is likely to adhere to some of the traditions and norms of White House coverage,” before detailing claims of “the Trump team’s transparency” that Spicer made to CNN:
For a press corps nervous about Trump's often combative relationship with the media, Spicer is a sign the incoming administration is likely to adhere to some of the traditions and norms of White House coverage.
Last Wednesday, Spicer highlighted what he said is the Trump team's transparency to CNN.
"What we've seen in government for so often is that people have been shady – about their roles, hiding things, not releasing things," Spicer said. "We have a camera for goodness' sake. Every single person who enters Trump Tower, you get to see them go up, go down, they talk to the press." [US News & World Report, 12/22/16]
MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt: “Congrats @SeanSpicer A Straight Shooter Back In The White House Press Room.”
MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace: Spicer “Has Always Taken Time To … Seek Out Feedback And Dialogue.”
CBS’ Garrett Haake: Spicer Is “Generally In Favor Of More Access” For The Press. Garrett Haake, anchor for WUSA9, CBS’ local D.C. affiliate, said Spicer “has a good relationship with most people in the Washington press corps” and that his position as press secretary “suggests that the Trump White House may not be as closed off from press, and therefore public scrutiny, as some people had worried about”:
GARRETT HAAKE (HOST): He is a feisty guy, he’s very well-known around Washington. Sean Spicer has been the face of the RNC for the last several years. He’s now going to be the face of the Trump administration. He is known for arguing with reporters, particularly in television interviews. He can push back very aggressively, but the thing that folks at home should know about Spicer and sort of why this matters is he’s someone who actually, despite all that fire, has a good relationship with most people in the Washington press corps, and he’s someone who’s generally in favor of more access, of more talking, of more interviews, of more press. So I think his selection, especially as compared to some of the other people who were up for that job, suggests that the Trump White House may not be as closed off from press and therefore public scrutiny as some people had worried about. [WUSA9, 12/22/16]
Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs: “Sean Spicer Is A Communications Ace With Good Relationships With Reporters.”
Townhall’s Katie Pavlich: “Spicer Is Capable Of Going Toe-To-Toe With The Press To Defend A Message While Also Respecting The Important Role Reporters Are Supposed To Play In Order To Hold Government Accountable.” [Townhall, 12/14/16]
LA Times: Spicer “Brought A Measure Of Establishment Washington To Trump’s Operation” And “Is Known For His Combative But Engaging Approach To Communications.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/16]
Fox News Contributor Richard Grenell: “@SeanSpicer Was Clear And Direct” In His January 11 Press Conference.
Fox’s Ed Henry: “I Expect @SeanSpicer Will Be Diplomatic & Have Open Door” For The Press.
The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson: Spicer Is “Competent, Thorough” And “A Good Pick For Press Secretary.”
Despite Widespread Criticism, Some Media Still Laud Spicer’s “Reboot”
Wash. Post’s Chris Cillizza: “Sean Handled A Very Difficult Situation With Aplomb Today.”
Wash. Post’s Karen Tumulty: Spicer’s “Doing A Solid, Professional Job. #Reboot”
Reuters’ Emily Flitter: Spicer “Is Back In @DanaPerino Territory As Opposed To Baghdad Bob Territory.”
CNN’s David Axelrod: “Much Different Tone And Approach From @PressSec Today. And More Effective.”
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “Spicer’s “Reboot” Was “Substantive” And “Responsive.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell praised Spicer’s “substantive,” “responsive” “do-over,” crediting him for taking “lots of questions” and saying “he intended to tell the truth, which is an important line to draw.” From the January 23 edition of MNSBC’s MSNBC Live:
ANDREA MITCHELL: First of all, [Sean Spicer] came out with a joke, with a light-hearted reference to the fact that [former White House press secretary] Josh Earnest would still be the most popular, that his record of popularity would stand. He messaged him last night. He attempted to fix -- I think it was a reboot, it was a chance to start over, frankly, a do-over. And it was substantive. It was responsive. He took lots of questions. He said that he intended to tell the truth, which is an important line to draw. Saying they may occasionally come out in haste and answer things incorrectly and have to fix it, but that he is dedicated to telling the truth. And that was an important question that had been raised by his performance on Saturday and, of course, by what Kellyanne Conway said to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press when she talked about alternative facts. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 1/23/17]
Wash. Post’s Philip Rucker: “Spicer Has Taken Tons Of Qs, Moved Fast W/ Informative Answers On Policies & Been Up Front When He Doesn’t Know”
CSPAN’s Jeremy Art: “By My Count This Is [The] Longest First Briefing [By] A WH Press Secretary In Each Of Past Two Administrations.”
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- The Presidency & White House
- Fox News, CNN, NBC, CSPAN
- Sean Spicer, Mark Berman, Dave Weigel, Hugh Hewitt, Nicolle Wallace, Jennifer Jacobs, Katie Pavlich, Richard Grenell, Ed Henry, Erick Erickson, Chris Cillizza, Karen Tumulty, David Axelrod, Andrea Mitchell, Philip Rucker
- New York Times, Washington Post, US News & World Report, MSNBC, CBS News, Bloomberg, Townhall, Los Angeles Times, The Resurgent, Reuters