President Donald Trump’s press secretary declared Saturday that Trump’s inauguration had the largest audience in history — “both in person and around the globe.”
Sean Spicer insisted: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”
Spicer, who offered no evidence to support the claim, was following up on comments Trump had made earlier in the day when he appeared at the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters.
Trump, ostensibly appearing at the CIA to mend his tumultuous relationship with America’s spy agencies assured officials there that “I am so behind you” — but then quickly shifted from praise for the CIA to criticism of media coverage of Inauguration Day.
The president, in unscripted comments, went on to overstate the size of the crowd that gathered on the National Mall as he took the oath of office. Trump said throngs “went all the way back to the Washington monument,” despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.
It is not known how many people watched the ceremony on television around the globe. In the U.S., Nielsen estimates 31 million viewers watched TV coverage, but that’s less than Barack Obama’s and Ronald Reagan’s first inaugurations.
On the ground in Washington, crowds on Friday were noticeably smaller than those of some pervious inaugurations.
Spicer convened reporters at the White House during Trump’s first full day in office to accuse them of engaging in “deliberately false reporting” and to claim that photographs of the inauguration were intentionally framed in a way to minimize the crowd.
Photos of the National Mall make clear that despite what Trump said, the crowd did not extend to the Washington Monument, as it did for the 2009 inauguration of Barack Obama.
The president’s media criticism came as he stood in front of a memorial honoring CIA officers killed while serving the United States.