Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, made it a record one day in the White House before completely losing any and all credibility he ever possessed.
Spicer spent Jan. 21 derailing the press for “falsely reporting” on the attendance at Trump’s inauguration speech, repeatedly claiming the crowd was the largest ever to witness a president be sworn into office. Spicer went on to claim the Metro system in Washington, D.C., had much more traffic on the day of Trump’s inauguration than it did on that of former President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit [Jan. 20], which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural,” Spicer said.
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Trump, unable to resist, chimed in as well, claiming 1.5 million people were at his inauguration that stretched, in his opinion, all the way back to the Washington Monument. Trump also claimed as soon as he began his speech, the dreary weather in D.C. immediately cleared up.
“And the truth is, [the rain] stopped immediately [as I began my speech], and then it became sunny,” he said. “And I walked off, and it poured after I left. It poured.”
The fact Trump and his administration are essentially playing “whose is bigger” in regard to inauguration crowd size is incredibly unpresidential behavior in and of itself. But far more disturbing is that both Trump and Spicer are blatantly lying.
Trump’s inauguration crowd was about one-third the size of Obama’s first inaugural speech in 2009, significantly smaller than the 1.5 million Trump claimed were in attendance. It was not, in fact, miraculously sunny as soon as Trump graced the crowd with his presence — it rained the entire 18 minutes.
Furthermore, both numbers regarding the Metro traffic in D.C. thrown out by Spicer are entirely fabricated, and not even in the ballpark of the real numbers. According to the transit system of D.C., 570,557 entries were recorded the day of Trump’s inauguration, while 782,000 were reported on the day of Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.
When confronted about the discrepancies between the story the press is telling and the rhetoric of Trump and Spicer by NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway responded by repackaging Spicer and Trump’s lies as “alternative facts.”
“[The media] is saying it’s a falsehood [that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience ever]. Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts,” Conway said.
She then continued to blame Todd and the media, for the invention of these “alternative facts.”
“We feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there,” she said.
First and foremost, a president’s first full day in office most certainly should not be spent bickering with the press about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, because quite frankly, it does not matter. It doesn’t matter if there were two people, or 2 million, and while this is obviously quite difficult for Trump’s gigantic ego to reconcile, he is now in charge of an entire country, and needs to start acting like it.
Additionally, alternative facts do not exist. What Conway is alleging is that the press — who reported accurately on Trump’s inauguration — caused herself, Spicer and Trump to blatantly lie to the public.
Considering freedom of the press is hailed as a fundamental right of American democracy, it is more than a little worrisome the president and his press secretary are swiftly diluting this right by feeding the media falsities, and denouncing those news organizations who question them by presenting the “real” facts in place of the “alternative” ones.
If things continue this way, with press conferences during which Trump repeatedly fails to answer questions from news sources because they have published content painting him in an unflattering light, and with a press secretary who blatantly lies to the media and to the public, not only will the reputability of news organizations come under fire, but the American people will become even less informed than they are now.
Whatever end of the political spectrum a person finds himself on, knowing the president is blatantly lying to the press and the public about such trivial matters should be upsetting, and should beg the further question: If Trump feels the need to lie about something as insignificant as whether it was raining or not during his inaugural speech, what will he feel the need to lie about in the future?
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.