White House spokesman Sean Spicer took questions from reporters for the first time in his formal role and insisted it is not his intention to misinform the American people, while maintaining a significantly more upbeat tone than demonstrated during Saturday’s combative briefing.
“It’s an honor to do this,” Spicer said. “I believe that we have to be honest with the American people… sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may not fully understand when we come out, but our intention is never to lie to you.”
— New York Times Video (@nytvideo) January 23, 2017
Spicer started the briefing off by joking that Josh Earnest, President Obama’s recent press secretary, was voted the most popular press secretary by the White House Correspondents Association, saying that title “is secure, at least for the next couple of days.”
Sean Spicer kicks things off with a joke. Not too many laughs from the room full of reporters. pic.twitter.com/N2fw5FnMcg
— Colin Jones (@colinjones) January 23, 2017
On Saturday, Spicer condemned the media for what he claimed to be “deliberately false reporting” in an attempt “to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration.” Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer, saying he provided “alternative facts,” which drew a ton of criticism.
Among the “alternative facts” in question was Spicer’s claim that Trump attracted “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe.” Nielsen ratings and ridership estimates from Washington D.C. public transit officials proved Spicer wrong.
Spicer compared his comments on Saturday to a newspaper making a mistake and printing a correction, while doubling down that Trump’s inauguration was the most-watched of all time when you factor in internet and mobile device viewing.
Many media watchdogs noticed that he mostly called on Trump-friendly reporters early in the briefing.
CNN’s Brian Stelter tweeted that Spicer is “literally and symbolically going over the heads of the reporters from the biggest newspapers and TV networks,” while journalist Lesley Clark pointed out that the New York Post got the first question when it historically goes to the Associated Press.
However, once Saturday’s aggressive statement was brought up, Spicer spoke about it at length, noting that the Trump administration has the right to correct the record when journalists make mistakes or spread fake news.
Spicer said that the advent of streaming services, Facebook and other digital mediums helped make Trump’s inauguration the most-watched in history, but not everyone agrees.
The @PressSec is mixing up apples (TV ratings) and oranges (Internet streaming).
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 23, 2017
Spicer successfully exploiting fact that most reporters don't understand viewer-measurement nos. any better than the average layperson.
— Brian Lowry (@blowryontv) January 23, 2017
Spicer defended his actions on Saturday by saying it’s a “constant theme” that the narrative is always negative surrounding Trump.
“Despite your partisan differences, he wants to make the country better for everybody,” Spicer said.
Spicer said it seems reporters have a “constant attempt to undermine [Trump’s] credibility and it’s “a little demoralizing” when mainstream media regularly doubts the president.
At one point, Spicer called on CNN’s Jim Acosta, who Trump famously wouldn’t call on and referred to as “fake news” at a recent press conference. Acosta was cordial and thanked Spicer for taking his question.
Also during the briefing, Spicer announced the addition of “Skype seats” that will allow additional journalists who are not based in Washington D.C. to partake in White House briefings.