After a bizarre press briefing on Saturday in which White House press secretary Sean Spicer made false claims about the crowd size at Donald Trump’s inauguration, an ABC reporter asked Spicer at the Monday daily briefing whether Spicer intends to always tell the truth in his role as Trump spokesman.
The question prompted a lengthy exchange between ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Spicer, during which the press secretary defended the comments he made about crowd sizes on Saturday.
When first asked by Karl if his intention is to always tell the truth and not to knowingly say something incorrect, Spicer replied, “It is. It’s an honor to do this. And, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may not fully understand when we come out. But our intention is never to lie to you.”
Spicer then said that members of the media sometimes have to issue corrections.
“That doesn’t mean that you were intentionally trying to deceive readers and the American people, does it? And I think we should be afforded the same opportunity,” he said. “There are times when we believe something to be true or we get something from an agency or we act in haste because the information available wasn’t complete.”
Karl asked Spicer about his claim on Sunday that more people used the D.C. Metro for Trump’s inauguration than for former President Obama’s swearing-in in 2013, which was not correct. Spicer acknowledged that the numbers he cited may not have been accurate.
“At the time the information I was provided by the inaugural committee came from an outside agency that we reported on. And I think knowing what we know now, we can tell that WMATA’s numbers are different,” he said.
But Spicer stood by his claim that Trump’s inauguration was the most watched around the world in history. He argued that by combining TV ratings with online viewership, Trump came out on top, even though the highest TV viewership for an inauguration was Ronald Reagan’s in 1981.
“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. So, do you dispute that?” Spicer asked Karl.
Karl said he did not want to delve into the numbers, but Spicer kept going.
“I’m just saying if you’re asking me a question about my integrity, I have a right to say, if you add up the network streaming numbers, Facebook, YouTube, all of the various live streamings that we have information on so far, I don’t think there’s any question that it was the largest watched inauguration ever,” Spicer said.
Karl also asked Spicer if he has any second thoughts about the “approach” he took on Saturday.
The question prompted Spicer to blast the Time Magazine reporter who incorrectly reported that the Trump administration had removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., from the White House. He also brought up Rep. John Lewis’ (D-GA) recent incorrect claim that Trump’s inauguration was the first he would skip.
“There is an attempt to go after this president and say, well that can’t be true,” Spicer lamented. “There’s a rush to judgement every time.”
When Karl asked if the media invented the fight between Trump and the intelligence community, Spicer cited Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday. He said that attendees at Trump’s remarks cheered the President, though CBS News reported that Trump and his staff filled the first few rows with his supporters.
“There’s a difference between having differences with intelligence leaders and leaders of that community who have strong differences with than the people and men and women who toile every single day in our intelligence community,” Spicer said.