Spiced up crowd sizes

Despite Donald Trump saying he would hit the ground running in his presidency, dealing with the important things, his first appearance was in front of a receptive (and self selected) CIA crowd where he blasted media as amongst the most dishonest human beings he knows, and blew his own trumpet. He is well known for his self praise.

Trump is known to be very keen on ratings, and has made claims about false reporting of crowd sizes at his inauguration.

His press secretary Sean Spicer called a special press conference, which turned out to be a little more than an attack on media while making more claims about crowd sizes. Claims that have been proven to be false, which is ironic given he blasted the media for false reporting.

Gezza reports:

Aljazeera 7am News. “Kellyanne Conway says Sean Spicer inaccurately described crowds.”

The Atlantic reports: Trump’s Press Secretary Falsely Claims: ‘Largest Audience Ever to Witness an Inauguration, Period’

In his first official White House briefing, Sean Spicer blasted journalists for “deliberately false reporting,” and made categorical claims about crowd-size at odds with the available evidence.

High irony.

In his first appearance in the White House briefing room since President Trump’s inauguration, Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivered an indignant statement Saturday night condemning the media’s coverage of the inauguration crowd size, and accusing the press of “deliberately false reporting.”

Standing next to a video screen that showed the crowd from President Trump’s vantage point, Spicer insisted that media outlets had “intentionally framed” their photographs to minimize its size. After attacking journalists for sharing unofficial crowd-size estimates—“no one had numbers,” he said—he proceeded to offer a categorical claim of his own. “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” he said, visibly outraged. “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

But it was Spicer who was wrong.

Steve Doig, a professor of journalism at Arizona State University, has provided estimates of crowds at past inaugurals, and is well-versed in the challenges they present.

Based on the photographs available in the media showing the part of the crowd that was on the mall, he said, “the claim that this is the largest ever is ludicrous on its face.”

Spicer produced numbers that have been refuted.

The only numbers Spicer cited were ridership numbers from WMATA, the D.C. public-transit system. “We know that 420,000 people used D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural,” he said.

But the figures Spicer offered were not consistent with those provided by WMATA officials, who told the Washington Post that 570,557 riders used the Metro system between its 4 a.m. opening and its midnight closure on Friday. That number falls short of both President Obama’s 2009 and 2013 inaugurations, which saw 1.1 million trips and 782,000 trips respectively.

And it was not just fewer in attendance.

Preliminary Nielsen figures also show that Trump’s inauguration received fewer average TV viewers in the United States than Obama’s first inauguration. The Los Angeles Times reported that 30.6 million viewers tuned in for Friday’s ceremonies, 19 percent below the 37.8 million viewers who watched in 2009.

Why does this matter?

It shows that Trump has carried an obsession with ratings (he recently tweeted that the new ‘Apprentice’ didn’t rate as well as when he ran it) into his presidency.

It shows that claims of ‘false news’ directed at media are not always correct, and in fact his press secretary appears to have presented false information and false claims.

And it shows that despite having a big and game changing agenda ego may be more important to Trump than communicating what he is going to do.

There also seems to be a deliberate strategy to divert public and media attention, perhaps in this case from the huge women’s march protests.

The media certainly need to up their game substantially, but as part of that they need to still hold the new president to account. If they are pressured into reporting more thoughtfully and accurately that will be a good thing.

And if Trump and Spicer divert and try to spin fake news they should be held to account on that.

I’ve just watched a number of video clips from Fox News, and there are very mixed reactions to Trump’s CIA speech and to Spicer’s attack. Some support Trump and criticise his critics, but others are very critical of Trump’s first weekend as PR president, including Fox’s political editor Chris Stirewalt.