Donald Trump is clearly obsessing about size again. On Saturday afternoon, while delivering a speech at the CIA, the president complained about the reporting of the size of the crowds for his inauguration on Friday. Official crowd estimates placed the turnout at around a quarter of a million people. Trump, however, insisted that his own visual estimate put the number far higher.
“We had a massive field of people, you saw that. Packed,” Trump claimed. “Honestly it looked like a million and half people, whatever it was it was.”
And so it was that later on Saturday afternoon, at 5:38pm EST, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer stepped up to the podium in the White House briefing room and angrily admonished the media for five minutes over the reporting of the crowd size for Trump’s inauguration — including floating the obvious/blatant lie that Trump’s inauguration drew the largest crowds of any inauguration in American history — and then stormed out of the room without taking any questions. It was downright stunning, reminiscent of “press conferences” from nations ruled by dictators that the world has caught glimpses of from time to time. Remember Baghdad Bob? It was something like that. Positively Soviet, even, as Joy Reid noted.
“This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration. Period!” Spicer angrily huffed with straight face. “Both in person and around the globe…These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”
Spicer went on to “explain” why aerial photographs showing stark contrasts in crowd size between Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and Trump’s inauguration exist. Spicer also went on to brag about the “raucous, overflow crowd of some 400+ CIA employees” that greeted Trump earlier in the day.
“This was the first time in the nation’s history that floor coverings had been used to protect the grass,” Spicer said. “That had the effect of highlighting any area where people were not standing. In years past, the grass eliminated this visual.”
Um, okay. Let’s take another look and see. Do those look like people in the shot on the left from 2009, or grass?
Yeah, no. Those are clearly people in those photos, not grass. As you may recall, the National Park Service tweeted out aerial photos late yesterday afternoon in what many interpreted as a case of trolling Trump, but they were later taken down, presumably because the White House ordered them to.
Spicer also went on to bizarrely brag about the “raucous, overflow crowd of some 400+ CIA employees” that greeted Trump earlier in the day. He then insisted to the media members gathered in the room that “that’s what you guys should be writing and covering.” He added, “there’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you it goes two ways; we’re going to hold the press accountable too.”
So, to recap: Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer called an emergency press conference today not to talk about policy or anything of national importance, but to admonish the media over reporting of Inauguration Day crowd size. No mention was made of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who have taken to the streets all across the world on Saturday to protest Trump’s election.
As Lauren Duca noted last month, it appears at times that Trump and his surrogates are attempting to gaslight America.
“To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country,” Duca wrote. “At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves, as our very reality is called into question.”
It’s hard to imagine a clearer case of gaslighting than insisting to an entire country that something they can clearly see with their own eyes to be true — that Obama drew more people to the National Mall in 2009 than Trump did in 2017 — is false. We have pictures that clearly disprove this. But it was sadly oh so predictable.
Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer weighed in with his take on the incident.
Some might also call it propaganda. Just saying.