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Trump aides, media spar over inauguration crowd size

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, in his first

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, in his first press conference on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, criticized the media over what he said was inaccurate reporting about the inauguration's crowd size, as well as a false report that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong

President Donald Trump’s aides doubled down on the adminstration’s combative stance with the media during Sunday morning talk shows as White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended as “alternative facts” the White House contention that Friday’s inauguration crowd was the largest ever.

Conway, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said there’s no way to verify a crowd size. White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Saturday said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

Spicer, who took no questions after making his statement to the White House press corps, also castigated reporters, saying: “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

On Sunday, “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Conway why Trump had asked Spicer to give “falsehoods.”

Conway replied, “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

Todd responded: “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”

The hashtag #alternativefacts quickly became the top trending topic on Twitter Sunday with users mocking the phrase. Dictionary company Merriam-Webster’s account tweeted a definition of fact. “A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality,” the dictionary company said on the social media platform used vigorously by Trump to get his message out.

Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, also sparred with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace over the inauguration’s crowd size and what Priebus called the press’ attempts to “delegitimize” the new president.

“It’s really not about crowd size. It’s really about honesty in the media,” Priebus said.

Aerial pictures and crowd estimates from experts show the gathering at Friday’s inauguration was smaller than at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Washington Metro ridership for Friday was also lower than the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations, according to figures released by the transit agency. Wallace asked Priebus to compare pictures of the National Mall in Washington in 2009 and in 2017, but Priebus declined.

Priebus instead pointed out a reporter’s mistake that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office had been removed, when it wasn’t. The pool reporter apologized for the mistake on Twitter.

“A reporter shoots first, aims later,” he said, pivoting from talking about the crowd’s size.

Wallace addressed the size of the Women’s March on Washington and of similar protests across the country.

“Well, first of all, I can tell you, President Trump is — he wants to be president for all people, including every one of those marchers yesterday, and I think over time, many of those people are going to be proud of this president,” Priebus said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, called on Trump to listen to the protesters in Saturday’s marches.

“All over the world, what people were saying to Mr. Trump: Women are not going backward,” Sanders said. Trump should “listen to the needs of women. Listen to the needs of the immigrant community. Listen to the needs of workers.”

“Now if Mr. Trump is serious about standing up for working families, then he’s not going to throw 20 million working people off of health insurance, he’s not going to cut Medicare and Medicaid,” Sanders said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sunday said congressional Democrats are on the offensive as Republicans struggle to figure out how to replace popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Schumer also responded to those who booed his speech at Trump’s inauguration, saying that their reaction “speaks poorly” of them.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Jake Tapper that Democrats had been on the offensive in the Obamacare debate: “We’ve had a very strong two weeks because they’re in such a pickle.” He said Republicans now face the difficulty of replacing parts of the law such as those guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to be covered by their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.

Schumer said repealing the laws without replacing those provisions “would be catastrophic.”

— With Ted Phillips

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