The White House’s ‘alternative facts’ about Trump’s inauguration crowd and how they are wrong


President Trump’s team set a combative tone with the press on his first full day in office when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused the media of reporting incorrect information about the size of the crowds at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” Spicer said. But Spicer himself went on to make multiple false claims while defending the turnout for Trump’s inauguration. Here’s a look at three of his statements and how they compare with the facts.

1. Protective white coverings on the Mall

“This was the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall.  That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past, the grass eliminated this visual.”

2017 was not the first year that floor coverings were used. They were put in place to cover parts of the National Mall during President Obama’s second inauguration four years ago. News photographs taken in 2013 show the protective white square panels being installed and attendees standing on the coverings before Obama’s swearing-in.

Crews lay down mats to protect the lawn on the National Mall before President Obama's second inauguration in 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

The floor coverings exposed empty areas of the Mall at Trump’s inauguration.

Their color helped create a contrast in comparison with the crowd at Obama’s first inauguration.

Below: Views from the top of the Washington Monument, both shot shortly before noon, at the first inauguration of President Obama in 2009, left, and President Trump, right.

View from the top of the Washington Monument, shot shortly before noon, at the inauguration of President Trump.

2. Magnetometers

“This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.”

Magnetometers were not used at access points to the National Mall for Trump’s inauguration, a spokesperson for the U.S. Secret Service told CNN.

3. Transit ridership totals

“We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama's last inaugural.”

The figures Spicer cited are incorrect, according to Washington’s transit authority, which runs the Metro subway system. Ridership statistics show that people rode Washington’s underground Metro 571,000 times on Inauguration Day. That’s about half the 1.1 million trips taken on the day of Obama’s first swearing-in in 2009, a Metro record for a single day, and fewer than the 782,000 trips on the day Obama was inaugurated a second time in 2013.

On the day after Trump’s inauguration, for the Women’s March on Washington, the Metro saw its second-highest ridership day ever, with a little more than 1 million trips.

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett


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