7 'Alternative Facts' from the White House

Ms Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to President Donald Trump, said the White House had put forth "alternative facts" to the ones reported by the news media about the size of the inauguration crowd.
Ms Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to President Donald Trump, said the White House had put forth "alternative facts" to the ones reported by the news media about the size of the inauguration crowd.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Ms Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to President Donald Trump, said on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday (Jan 22) that the White House had put forth "alternative facts" to the ones reported by the news media about the size of the inauguration crowd.

She made this assertion a day after Mr Trump and Mr Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, accused the media of reporting falsehoods about the inauguration and Mr Trump's relationship with the intelligence agencies.

In leveling this attack, the president and Mr Spicer made a series of false statements.

Here are seven of their statements and the facts:

1. The intelligence community

1. In a speech at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Saturday, Mr Trump said the news media had constructed a feud between him and the intelligence community. "They sort of made it sound like I had a 'feud' with the intelligence community," he said. "It is exactly the opposite, and they understand that, too."

Fact check: Mr Trump repeatedly criticised the intelligence agencies during his transition to office and has questioned their conclusion that Russia meddled in the election to aid his candidacy. He called their assessment "ridiculous" and suggested that it had been politically motivated.

After the disclosure of a dossier with unsubstantiated claims about him, Mr Trump alleged that the intelligence agencies had allowed a leak of the material. "Are we living in Nazi Germany?" he asked in a post on Twitter.

2. Size of inauguration crowd

Mr Trump said of his inauguration crowd: "It looked honestly like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument."

 

Fact check: Aerial photographs clearly show that the crowd did not stretch to the Washington Monument. An analysis by The New York Times, comparing photographs to the ones taken of Mr Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, showed that Mr Trump's crowd was significantly smaller and less than the 1.5 million people he claimed.

3. Weather during inauguration speech

Mr Trump said that though he had been "hit by a couple of drops" of rain as he began his address on Inauguration Day, the sky soon cleared. "And the truth is, it stopped immediately, and then became sunny," he said. "And I walked off, and it poured after I left. It poured."

Fact check: The truth is that it began to rain lightly almost exactly as Trump began to speak and continued to do so throughout his remarks, which lasted about 18 minutes, and after he finished.

4. Viewership of inauguration

"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and around the globe," Mr Spicer said.

Fact check: There is no evidence to support this claim. Not only was Mr Trump's inauguration crowd far smaller than Mr Obama's in 2009, but he also drew fewer television viewers in the United States (30.6 million) than Mr Obama did in 2009 (38 million) and Mr Ronald Reagan did in 1981 (42 million), Nielsen reported.

5. Subway ridership

Mr Spicer said that Washington's Metro system had greater ridership on Inauguration Day than it did for Mr Obama's 2013 inauguration. "We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit... which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama's last inaugural," he said.

Fact check: Neither number is correct, according to the transit system, which reported 570,557 entries into the rail system, compared with 782,000 on Inauguration Day in 2013.

6. Floor coverings

Mr Spicer said: "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."

Fact check: Similar coverings were used during the 2013 inauguration to protect the grass. The coverings did not hamper analyses of the crowd size.

7. Security measures and human traffic

Mr Spicer said that it was "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".

Fact check: The Secret Service said security measures were largely unchanged this year. There were also few reports of long lines or delays.