White House press secretary Sean Spicer in his first formal briefing to the media on Monday attempted to steamroll misstatements that he had issued earlier this month. Spicer had accused media of engaging in “deliberately false reporting” of stats that showed crowds at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., were far lesser in comparison with Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
“Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way … to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall. This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period. Both in person and around the globe.”
Following this statement, Spicer was widely criticized by social media and was dubbed “Baghdad Sean,” a play on Baghdad Bob, the nickname given to Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf who continued to reassure Iraqi citizens that all was well as U.S. troops had invaded Iraq in 2003.
For something as inconsequential as crowd size, Spencer had put this credibility at test with this statement.
On Monday’s briefing, Spicer tried to justify his earlier statement and accused media of undermining Trump’s credibility, calling the media’s narrative “demoralizing.”
“I’m saying that it was the total largest audience witnessed in person and around the globe. There’s this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he [Trump] has. It’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win. I’ve never seen it like this. The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing. 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… we may not fully understand when we come out, but our intention is never to lie to you.”
This briefing also saw a break in tradition of The Associated Press getting the first question at routine daily briefings. Spicer turned to the New York Post for the first question and also announced that the Trump administration would “add four Skype seats” for journalists who live beyond 50 miles of Washington, D.C., and organizations that don’t have credentials for the White House.
In the briefing, Spicer stated that Obamacare, immigration, tax reform and regulatory reforms are Trump’s legislative priorities.
Spicer also stated that President Trump has spoken to the leaders of Canada and Mexico for renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) within its existing framework. Answering questions regarding undocumented immigrants, issue at the core of Trump’s campaign, Spicer stated that Trump would look at those who are in the country illegally and have committed violent crimes.
“First and foremost, the president’s been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally and have a record, a criminal record, or pose a threat to the American people. That’s where the priority is going to be.”
In response to a question about Russian claims of a joint air mission with U.S. in Syria, earlier denied by Pentagon, Spicer said that the United States is open to working with Russia to combat ISIS, calling it a “shared national interest.”
Answering a question regarding the Women’s March, Spicer suggested that it was not necessarily an anti-Trump march. A lot of people were there “to protest an issue of concern and not against anything.”
“This is what makes our country so beautiful is that on one day you can inaugurate a president, on the next day people can occupy the same space to protest something.”
Spicer also confirmed that no documents proving Trump has severed ties with his business interests have been made public at this time.
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