"It's not a travel ban," Spicer told reporters at his daily briefing. "What it is, is to make sure that the people who are coming in are vetted properly from seven countries that were identified by the Obama administration. A ban would mean people can't get in."
He said that calling the order a ban "misrepresents what it is."
"This is not a Muslim ban. It's not a travel ban. It's a vetting system to keep America safe. That's it," Spicer said in response to a later question.
A reporter pressed Spicer on that point, referring to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's claim in a Saturday interview that Trump asked him to find a way to "legally" enact the ban on Muslim immigration he repeatedly touted on the campaign trail.
"Then you should ask Mayor Giuliani," Spicer replied. "That's his opinion."
Later in the briefing, a reporter cited Trump's Monday tweet that referred to the order as a "ban."
"He's using the words that the media is using, but at the end of the day it can't be—" Spicer began.
"Those were his words," multiple reporters interrupted.
"It can't be a ban if you're letting a million people in," Spicer said. "That is by nature not a ban."
In a press conference earlier Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that 1 million travelers entered the United States via air travel in the 72 hours after Trump signed the order, though only half of those travelers were foreign nationals.
"The President himself called it a ban," a reporter pressed Spicer.
"I understand that," he said.
"Is he confused or are you confused?" the reporter asked.
"No, I'm not confused," Spicer said. "I think that the words that are being used to describe it derive from what the media is calling this. He's been very clear that it is extreme vetting."
But even Spicer himself referred to the order as a "ban" on Monday night in a discussion at George Washington University.
"Let me just walk through the tick-tock," he said. "The ban deals with seven countries."
Watch part of his answer below: