I’ll grant you: it feels kind of silly to be writing a post about the size of an inaugural crowd. (Remember: I think inaugurations are stupid to begin with.) But it’s even sillier to hold a whole press conference about the size of an inaugural crowd. And the silliest thing of all is to tell easily provable falsehoods about the size of an inaugural crowd from the White House podium.
And writing a post about White House falsehoods . . . why, that doesn’t feel silly at all.
So. As noted by Susan Wright earlier, Sean Spicer came marching out today and loudly and angrily made several claims about the size of the crowds yesterday. He made accurate complaints about tweets such as one about the bust of MLK being gone from the Oval Office.
Then he started complaining about the media’s coverage of the crowd size.
Now, I’m going to stay away from the side-by-side comparison photos of Obama 2013 and Trump 2017 I have seen floating around. They appear to show a lot more people at Obama’s inauguration. But the media could have compared different times of day. So let’s just stick with facts.
Spicer said this was the first time floor coverings were ever used on the Mall:
This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings had been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.
This was false.
Spicer said this was the first time floor coverings were used on the national mall. I took this photo at the inauguration in 2013. pic.twitter.com/MVHPQQ6Y5F
— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) January 21, 2017
Spicer also said magnetometers prevented access to the Mall:
This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the wall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.
This may be false. A Secret Service person denied it to CNN’s Jim Acosta.
A USSS spokesperson tells us no magnetometers were used on the National Mall for Trump's inauguration.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 22, 2017
I’d like to see more conclusive proof before I declare this one to be a clear falsehood. But I’m leaning that way, since this assertion is sandwiched in between other clearly false ones.
Spicer said Metro numbers showed higher ridership for Trump’s inaugural than Obama’s last inaugural:
We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for president Obama’s last inaugural.
That is flatly false. I can’t find any direct numbers for the entire day from the Metro Web site, but the Washington Post reports:
Metro said 570,557 people took trips in the system between its early 4 a .m. Friday opening through midnight closing.
The figures are significantly lower than those from the 2009 and 2013 Inaugurations of President Barack Obama; 1.1 million trips in 2009 and 782,000 in 2013, according to Metro.
Spicer’s number for ridership on Friday was actually low — the correct number, according to Metro itself, was 570,557. But there were actually 782,000 trips taken for Obama’s second inaugural in 2013.
And tweets from Metro itself from 11 a.m. on Inauguration Day 2013 vs. 2017:
Metro Ridership: As of 11am, 193k trips taken so far today. (11am 1/20/13 = 317k, 11am 1/20/09 = 513k, 11am 1/20/05 = 197k) #wmata
— Metro (@wmata) January 20, 2017
. CORRECTION: The 317k figure above was from 1/21/13 (Inauguration Day).
— Metro (@wmata) January 20, 2017
These numbers are consistent with the final figures reported by CNN and the Washington Post, showing higher numbers in 2013 than 2017.
Spicer sure told some whoppers there. I understand the right’s desire for pushback against the media, believe me. But to me, “pushback” that is dishonest is not praiseworthy. At all. I agree with Charles C.W. Cooke:
Banner start for the Trump administration: An inaugural press conference that featured a flagrant, jaw-dropping lie and no questions.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) January 21, 2017
But whether it’s good politics is, of course, a different matter. Who am I to say that repeating falsehoods in an angry tone doesn’t work?
After all: Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and the presidency doing exactly that.