Trump's spokesman doubled down on the accusation, using his first press conference in the White House briefing room to blast the journalists seated before him for "deliberately false reporting" on crowd size. Photograph:( Getty )
US President Donald Trump spent his first full day in office by attacking the media, falsely accusing reporters of downplaying the turnout at his inauguration.
Trump asserted without evidence that 1.5 million people attended his Friday swearing-in ceremony.
"I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people," he told CIA staff.
"They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well," he added.
"The Party told you to reject all evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."— Jon Dalphe (@Memorablelabia) January 22, 2017
-- George Orwell, 1984 pic.twitter.com/So9fR7mnkY
The media did not show "a field", they showed the exact same location, the National Mall, where all presidential inaugurations are held.
Trump said one agency, without saying which one, estimated the turnout at 250,000. "Now, that's not bad. But it's a lie," Trump said. He claimed that crowds stretched till the Washington Monument, twenty blocks from the Capitol, where he spoke. "So we caught them and we caught them in a beauty and I think they're going to pay a big price," he added.
The President's thoughts were repeated by White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, who, without evidence, scolded reporters for "deliberately false reporting" on crowd size.
"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period!" Spicer said. "These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong." He left, refusing to take any questions.
Sean Spicer was mocked on social media with the hashtag #SpicerFacts.
Many observed that the Women's March, an anti-Trump protest, had a visibly larger attendance than Trump's presidential rally.
Many also compared the turnout between former president Barack Obama's inaugural ceremony and that of Trump on January 21. Aerial photos taken on January 20, 2009 and Friday clearly show that the crowd fell short in the latter's ceremony. Television footage also showed the crowd did not stretch as far as the Washington Monument like Trump claimed.
About 1.8 million people assembled at the National Mall area in 2009 when Barack Obama took oath as President. Washington authorities had predicted 800,000 to 900,000 would attend Trump's inauguration Friday, about half of the 2009 crowd.
Trump's comments came in during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, a move to mend ties with Intelligence agencies, when he cast doubt on their assessment of Russia meddling in the November 8 election.
He stood in front of a wall sacred to the CIA, honouring employees killed during service, and told the employees he fully supported the agency in a speech that mostly focused on criticising the media.
The New York Times said that Trump's speech set off a "fierce reaction" among many in the CIA, with John O Brennan, the CIA director who resigned Friday, saying "Trump should be ashamed of himself", according to Brennan's former chief of staff, Nick Shapiro.
Trump has disagreed with US intelligence agencies in recent weeks about their conclusion that Russia interfered in the US election on his behalf. After a dossier with unverified facts leaked to the public, Trump accused the intelligence agencies of allowing the leak. "Are we living in Nazi Germany?" Trump asked on Twitter.
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
On Saturday Trump suggested that the media is to blame for any suggestion that he does not fully support the work of US intelligence agencies.
"I love you, I respect you, there's nobody I respect more," he told them.
(WION with inputs from AFP)