Monday, 23 January 2017

Every Picture Tells a Story

Donald Trump has a well deserved reputation for being terribly thin-skinned and sensitive to personal criticism which seems to have affected other White House officials as well, if this angry rant by the new press secretary, Sean Spicer, is anything to go by.

Team Trump claimed that the 2017 inauguration was the biggest ever event of its kind "period" - with Trump himself claiming that the "crowds went all the way back to the Washington monument" when in fact this was clearly not true.

Every picture tells as story, as they say, and this photo of President Obama's inauguration in 2009 speaks for itself.
But instead of getting with the serious business of government Team Trump got involved in a ridiculous spat which ended with his press secretary blaming the 'floor coverings' for reducing the visual impact of the Trump supporters.

Trump claims media 'dishonest' over crowd photos
BBC US & Canada

Image copyrightREUTERSImage captionTrump's inauguration (left) and Obama's in 2009, viewed from the Washington Monument

President Donald Trump has accused the media of dishonesty over the number of people attending his inauguration.

Mr Trump said "it looked like" some 1.5m people had been there when he spoke at the US Capitol on Friday.

His press secretary later said it had been "the largest audience to ever see an inauguration" even though figures he cited add up to under 750,000 people.

And photographs appear to show many more attending the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009.

On Saturday, millions in the US and around the world took part in protests to highlight women's rights, which activists believe to be under threat from the new administration.

The largest US rally was in the capital, Washington DC, which city officials estimated to be more than 500,000-strong, followed by New York with some 400,000 and hundreds of thousands elsewhere, including Chicago and Los Angeles. 

Inauguration: What are the figures?

For decades, the US National Park Service provided official crowd estimates for gatherings on the National Mall.

But the agency stopped providing counts after organisers of the Million Man March protest about rights for black people in 1995 threatened a lawsuit.

Mr Trump said "it looked like a million and a half people" there on Friday - with the crowd extending all the way back to the Washington Monument.

To support the argument, his press secretary Sean Spicer outlined figures amounting to 720,000 people in the Mall.

He also said that the number of people taking Washington's subway system on the day had been higher than during Mr Obama's second inauguration in 2013.

In fact, there were 782,000 tickets that year, 571,000 this year, the Washington-area transit authority says.

Mr Spicer also said that plastic sheets had been used for the first time to cover the grass which "had the effect of highlighting areas people were not standing whereas in years past the grass eliminated this visual". In fact, the grass was also covered in 2013.

He added that fences and metal detectors had had an impact on attendance, but this had also been denied by officials as being a factor.

District of Columbia officials had made preparations for an estimated 700,000 to 900,000.

What are US media saying?

The new president repeated his low opinion of the media dubbing reporters "among the most dishonest human beings on earth". Mr Spicer vowed "to hold the press accountable".

In their reaction, major US media outlets flatly denied the claims made by the US president and his spokesman.

The New York Times, singled out by Mr Spicer, denounced "false claims".

CNN said it did not even broadcast the spokesman's statement live. It said the press secretary had attacked the media "for accurately reporting" and went on to debunk the claims.

ABC news also goes into detail to refute the claims.

Pro-Trump Fox News reported the claims unchallenged.

BuzzFeed News accuses Mr Spicer of lying and goes on to provide Twitter memes generated from his remarks.

A worrying debut: Analysis by David Willis, BBC News, Washington

In his first ever White House briefing, Sean Spicer rounded on reporters in a manner few here can remember.

Echoing President Trump's charge of dishonesty, Mr Spicer issued a thinly-veiled warning to reporters covering the Trump presidency, saying the new administration intended to "hold the press accountable".

Precisely what he means by that is unclear, but the statement has left many veterans of the White House press pool deeply concerned.

Ultimately, of course, it begs the broader question - what will prove most unpalatable to this new administration: the messenger or the message?

What are inauguration figures for past US presidents?

Officials from the District of Columbia have said that 1.8m people attended Mr Obama's 2009 inauguration and close to 1m showed up for his second in 2013.

George W Bush drew some 400,000 in 2005, 300,000 in 2001; Bill Clinton had 800,000 in 1993 then 250,000 in 1997.

Some 140,000 tickets were sold for Ronald Reagan's inauguration in 1985, but extreme cold forced officials to move the ceremony indoors, says Politifact.

It says the biggest crowd the National Park Service counted was for Lyndon Johnson's 1965 swearing-in that drew 1.2m.