Trump PR says 'we are going to hold the press accountable' and condemns 'shameful' reporting of inauguration numbers

Donald Trump’s press secretary used his first briefing for the new US president to lambast reporters and warn that they will be “held accountable”.

Sean Spicer condemned a tweet from Time’s Zeke Miller, who mistakenly reported that a Martin Luther King bust had been removed from the Oval Office. Miller apologised and corrected the error.

Spicer said this was “irresponsible and reckless”.

Spicer also claimed that journalists intentionally misrepresented the number of attendees at the National Mall to watch Trump’s inauguration on Friday.

It has been widely reported that Trump drew a smaller audience than either of the two Obama inaugurations.

Trump himself said: “I made a speech. I looked out. The field was — it looked like a million, a million and a half people.”

Spicer said: “Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimise the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.

“This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings had been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting areas where people had not been standing whereas in years past the grass eliminated this visual.

“This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers [metal detectors] went as far back preventing hundreds of thousands of people from accessing the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.

“Inaccurate numbers involving crowd sizes were also tweeted. No one had numbers because the National Park Service which controls the National Mall does not put any out. By the way this applies to an attempts to count the number of protesters today in the same fashion.

“This was largest audience to ever witness an inaugurations period both in person and around the globe.

“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

Fact-checking site Snopes compares images from Trump and Obama 2009 inaugurations

The New York Times reports evidence from crowd scientists who estimate 180,000 in the Mall in the hour running up to Trump taking the oath of office, versus 470,000 attending the women’s march the following day.

This compares with estimates of up to 1.8m for Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

Spicer went on to say that Trump received an “ecstatic” standing ovation when he went to visit staff at the CIA and he noted that Senate Democrats are “stalling the nomination of Mike Pompeo [as head of the CIA] and playing politics with national security”.

He said: “That’s what you guys should be writing and covering instead of sowing division about tweets and false narratives, the president is committed to uniting our country and that was the focus of his inaugural address.

“This kind of dishonesty in the media challenging bringing our nation together is making it more difficult.

“There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable and I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable as well.

“The American people deserve better and as long as he 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 declined to take questions.

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