In his first press conference taking questions from the media, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended his inaccurate assertion that President Donald Trump's inauguration was the most attended in history.
On Jan. 23, Spicer took questions from reporters in the White House press room. The press secretary addressed his controversial statement from several days beforehand, when he criticized the media's reporting on the size of the audience for Trump's inaugural address.
Spicer stated that the Trump administration would not aim to lie to the public but that facts were subject to argument, ABC News reports.
"Sometimes we can disagree with the facts but our intention is never to lie," Spicer said. "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."
On Jan. 21, Spicer issued his first statement as press secretary, accusing journalists of deliberately lying when they reported that Trump's inauguration had drawn a smaller crowd than both of former President Barack Obama's ceremonies in 2009 and 2013.
"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration -- period -- both in person and around the globe," Spicer said, according to Politico.
Spicer had not offered any evidence to back up his assertion, and all available data indicates that his statement was not accurate. Overhead aerial images comparing Trump and Obama's inaugurations -- taken while both presidents were giving their speeches -- show a visible difference in crowd sizes.
Additionally, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority found that a total of 570,557 Metro trips were taken on Trump's inauguration day, whereas it recorded 782,000 trips taken during Obama's 2013 inauguration and 1.1 million taken during his 2009 inauguration.
Nielsen ratings also found that 30.6 million had watched Trump's inauguration on television, a smaller number than had watched Obama's first inauguration or the swearing-in ceremonies of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon.
CNN had also found that Trump's inauguration drew 16.9 million livestreams on its website, whereas Obama's had drawn 25 million in 2009.
On Jan. 22, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace blasted Spicer's statement during an interview with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
"President Trump said in his inaugural address that every decision he makes will be to benefit American families," Wallace said. "How does arguing about crowd size do that?"
Wallace added that Spicer "could've given a news conference yesterday, talked about the agenda, talked about the executive actions he's going to sign. He talked about crowd sizes."
On Jan. 23, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer's statement during an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press."
"You're saying it's a falsehood," Conway told Todd. "And they're giving -- Sean Spicer, our press secretary -- gave alternative facts."
"Alternative facts aren't facts, they are falsehoods," Todd responded.
During his latest meeting with reporters, Spicer also defended his decision to issue a statement instead of taking questions during his first appearance as press secretary.
"Look -- I came out to read a statement," Spicer said. "I did it. We're here today. I'm going to stay as long as you want."