At a press conference on Saturday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer disputed claims that attendance to President Donald Trump’s election ceremonies had been particularly low. He suggested that the media had been intentionally framing images of the inauguration to make it look as if there were not many people in attendance.
“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular Tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,” Spicer said in his first official press conference as White House press secretary. “That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.”
His comments quickly drew skepticism and criticism from media, politicians, celebrities and social media users.
“Spicer offered a few ‘facts’ to disprove media reports of low turnout, but many of them are misleading or inaccurate,” Linda Qiu wrote in an article for PolitiFact. “His overall assertion that Trump’s inaugural drew the ‘largest audience’ ever is flat-out wrong.”
Qui pointed out that, despite Spicer’s claims, floor coverings had been used before on the National Mall to protect the grass, and they were still in place the next day when the Women’s March filled the Mall. Spicer had argued that the floor coverings highlighted areas not filled with people during the inauguration.
Spicer also said that fencing and magnetometers had not been used at previous inauguration events and prevented people from entering the National Mall as quickly as in the past. However, Qui cited sources that said those mechanisms had been in place during previous events, and that they were not even used where Spicer suggested they were used during the inauguration.
On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to Trump, went on NBC‘s Meet the Press. Host Chuck Todd grilled Conway about Spicer’s comments, calling them falsehoods.
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” Conway said in defense of Spicer.
She then turned the discussion to criticisms of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The “alternative facts” line caught the ear of many listeners, and people soon began posting about it on social media. The hashtag #alternativefacts began trending on Twitter, with tens of thousands of tweets, likes and retweets.
— Tony Goldwyn (@tonygoldwyn) January 22, 2017
Some people focused on the questions of the inauguration numbers, Spicer’s reliability and Conway’s responses.
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) January 22, 2017
Kellyanne Conway still has credibility and integrity as a spokesperson #alternativefacts
— Patrick Canfield (@lakesideman1) January 22, 2017
— Dave Barabas (@Dave_Barabas) January 22, 2017
Others quickly employed the hashtag to include broader political commentary.
Paul Ryan is a feminist and believes in women’s rights. He also really loves Planned Parenthood. #alternativefacts
— Steph (@steph_abc) January 22, 2017
The hashtag soon spread to other topics as well, with everything from people’s lunch decisions to their tax returns becoming a target for “alternative facts.”
— Andrea Chalupa (@AndreaChalupa) January 22, 2017
officer I am not drunk, I am alternative sober, #alternativefacts
— kyle humble (@khumble14) January 22, 2017
I put Apple stickers on a brick so now it is an iPhone #alternativefacts
— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) January 22, 2017
I tried putting #alternativefacts on my tax forms and now I’m serving 15 to life????
— Ohm Shukla???? (@OhmShukla) January 22, 2017
Student Loan Rep: You’re behind on your payments
Me: Let me offer some #alternativefacts
— Sylvia Obell (@SylviaObell) January 22, 2017
Some people got deep with the political commentary.
“The Party told you to reject all evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” (Orwell)#AlternativeFacts
— (((DuneMyThang™))) (@Kris_Sacrebleu) January 22, 2017
And even Merriam-Webster chimed in.
????A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality. https://t.co/gCKRZZm23c
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) January 22, 2017
[Featured image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]