After one of Donald Trump’s top aides said the White House had merely presented “alternative facts” to counter low inauguration crowd estimates, a Reuters news agency editor defended a photo showing the size of the crowd that witnessed the president being sworn in.
On Sunday, Reuters’ pictures editor Jim Bourg took to social media after “seeing a lot of inaccurate talk and allegations online” about some of the images showing the inauguration crowd.
“I am seeing a lot of inaccurate talk and allegations online about the crowd photos from Friday’s Trump inauguration that are simply not borne out by the FACTS,” Bourg wrote on Facebook. “Only one news organization had a still photographer atop the Washington monument for the inauguration and I assigned him to be there.”
The photograph shows large gaps in the crowd and empty space towards the back of the National Mall and at the foot of the Washington Monument. On Saturday, Trump overstated the size of the inaugural crowd and accused the media of lying about crowd estimates.
Many suggested the photos comparing Trump’s inauguration to Barack Obama’s were taken at different times.
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According to Reuters’ photo editor, the agency’s staff photographer snapped the image as Trump was taking the oath of office.
“This photo by Reuters news pictures staff photographer Lucas Jackson was taken at 12:01:18 p.m. on Friday and not much earlier as many people are trying to claim,” Bourg said in the Facebook post.
Bourg’s comments come after Trump, and two of his spokespeople had presented what they called “alternative facts” about the size of the crowd.
“We had, it looked, honestly it looked like a million and a half people, whatever it was it was.” Trump said when he visited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in Virginia. On Saturday “It went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”
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Trump said that a U.S. news network showed “an empty field” and “said we drew 250,000 people.”
“Now that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around that little ball we constructed, that was 250,000 people,” Trump said. “The rest of the 20 block-area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed. So, we caught them and we caught them in a beauty.”
Following Trump’s comments at CIA headquarters, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lashed out at the media over refuting the administration’s inauguration crowd numbers.
“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” Spicer said in a briefing.
Spicer went on to point out that this was the first time fences went as far back on the mall which may have slowed people from entering. The press secretary also broke down “facts” of the size of the National Mall by size of blocks and provided an estimate of how many people fit within each area.
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“From the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people,” Spicer said when breaking down the National Mall by sections. “All of this space was full when the president took the oath of office.”
He also noted the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority ridership numbers.
“We know that 420,000 people used the DC Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural,” Spicer said. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”
On Sunday morning, Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to President Trump, characterized Spicer’s comments about crowd size as “alternative facts.”
On Monday, Spicer held his first official White House briefing where he addressed the “facts” he mentioned following Trump’s inauguration and stood behind the assertion that Trump’s inauguration was the most watched.
“It’s an honour to do this. I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts,” Spicer told reporters. “There are certain things that we may miss, we may not fully understand when we come out but our intentions is never to lie to you.”
The press secretary noted “sometimes we may disagree about facts.”
“I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them and if we make a mistake I’ll do our best to correct it,” Spicer said.
With regards to the DC Metro ridership numbers, Spicer said he was given incorrect information at the time.
“At the time the information that I was provided by the inaugural committee came from an outside agency that we reported on,” Spicer said. “I think knowing what we know now, we can tell the (Metro) numbers are different but we were trying to provide numbers that we were provided.
“That wasn’t like we made them up out of thin air.”
The press secretary said that taking into consideration online streaming and television viewership, Trump’s inauguration was the most-watched in history.
“It was the most watched inaugural. When you look at, just one network alone got 16.9 million people online, another couple of networks, there was tens of millions of people that watched that online,” Spicer said. “Never mind the audience that was here, 31 million people watched it on television, combined that with the tens of millions of people that watched online, on a device, it’s unquestionable.
“I don’t see any numbers that dispute that. When you add up attendance, viewership, total audience in terms of tablets, phones on television, I’d love to see any information that proves that otherwise,” Spicer said.