White House press secretary Sean Spicer angrily attacked journalists Saturday for their "irresponsible and reckless" Twitter coverage of President Donald Trump's Friday inauguration, vowing that "we're going to hold the press accountable as well."
"Yesterday, at a time when our nation and the world watched the peaceful transition of power — and as the president said, the transfer and balance of power from Washington to the citizens of the United States — some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting," Spicer said in his first session with reporters since Trump's inauguration.
Spicer issued the bitter tongue lashing amid "all the talk about the proper use of Twitter" — and it came just hours after Trump slammed the media in a speech to more than 400 CIA employees in Langley, Va., in his first full day as president.
The spokesman cited tweets that compared crowd sizes between Trump's inaugural and former President Barack Obama's in 2009, as well as posts that falsely claimed that the new president had removed a bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.
Trump cited both examples in his CIA remarks.
"Photographs of the inaugural proceeding were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall," Spicer said.
He noted that floor coverings were used to protect the grass on the Mall for the first time — and "that had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing.
"In years past, the grass eliminated this visual."
In addition, fencing and other security objects were used on the Mall, "preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past," Spicer said.
The spokesman further charged that "inaccurate numbers involving crowd size were also tweeted.
"No one had numbers, because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out."
He said that as many as 720,000 people were in the immediate inaugural area, spanning from the U.S. Capitol — where Trump took the oath of office — to the Washington Monument.
"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period," Spicer said. "Both in person and around the globe."
He contended that 420,000 people had used Washington's Metro transportation system for the inaugural, compared with 317,000 for Obama's 2013 swearing in.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that 571,000 people had taken Metro to Trump's inauguration, fewer than the 782,000 for Obama's four years earlier.
In addition, Nielsen said Saturday that nearly 31 million viewers watched television coverage of Friday's festivities, higher than the 20.6 million for Obama's in 2013 — but lower than the 37.8 million in 2009.
"These attempts to lessen enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," Spicer said.
With the King bust, Time magazine political reporter Zeke Miller tweeted Friday that Trump ordered it replaced with Winston Churchill's.
Obama had the King bust placed in the Oval Office.
Miller later tweeted that he was wrong and apologized — and Spicer accepted it in a later post.
The spokesman called the initial post "egregious."
"After it was pointed out this was plain wrong, the reporter casually reported — tweeted out — and tried to claim that a Secret Service agent must have just been standing in front of it.
"This was irresponsible and reckless," Spicer said.
"The president is committed to unifying our country — and that was the focus of inaugural address," he added.
"This kind of dishonesty in the media, the challenge about bringing our nation together, is making it more difficult.
"There's been a lot of talk in the media about responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable," Spicer said, "and I am here to tell you that it goes two ways.
"We're going to hold the press accountable as well."
He then apparently settled any lingering questions of whether President Trump would continue his Twitter use.
"The American people deserve better — and so 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."
After a few updates on Trump's schedule for the upcoming week, Spicer left the briefing room without taking questions.
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