Former campaign manager and senior advisor to newly inaugurated President Trump Kellyanne Conway sparked controversy and a Twitter meme when she referred to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s lies about inauguration crowd size “alternative facts.”
At his first press briefing on Saturday, Spicer claimed that Friday’s crowd was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” a claim that’s easily debunked with a side-by-side photo comparison. Both the photographic evidence and crowd-size estimates say Obama’s crowd was much larger, and Nielsen ratings show that more people watched Obama’s inaguration on TV as well.
But even though the claim was an obvious lie, Kellyanne Conway attempted to defend Spicer in an interview with Chuck Todd on his show “Meet the Press” on Sunday, saying, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts.”
Later in the interview, Todd asked Conway why Spicer was asked to lie about the size of the crowd, something that can easily be fact-checked, saying the whole thing was “ridiculous.” Conway grabbed onto that word.
“Your job is not to call things ridiculous that are said by our press secretary and our president. That’s not your job,” Conway responded. She stuck to the same answer even when Todd pressed her.
Conway also told CNN on Sunday that the president himself told Spicer to make the inauguration crowd size the subject of his first briefing.
Trump was so upset about these photos and media coverage of his inauguration that he complained about them in a speech he gave when he visited CIA headquarters on Saturday. In the speech, he told the CIA, “I am so behind you,” called himself “a pretty smart person,” and called the media “among the most dishonest human beings,” drawing loud applause, according to BuzzFeed News. The amount of applause was suprising, given that the intelligence community is supposed to remain neutral.
According to Trump, it was the media, and not his own criticism, that “made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community, alright, just want to let you know, there’s a reason you’re number-one stop, is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that, too,” Trump said. Trump said that he wanted to come to the CIA headquarters because of the suggestion by the “dishonest media” that there was a rift between himself and the intelligence community. In fact, Trump had a very public spat with the intelligence community—but maybe he has “alternative facts” about that.
Former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro stated on Twitter that outgoing CIA Director John Brennan was “deeply saddened and angered” by the president’s “despicable display of self-aggrandizement.”
Of course, Trump thought the speech went great, tweeting, “Had a great meeting at CIA Headquarters yesterday, packed house, paid great respect to Wall, long standing ovations, amazing people. WIN!”