Alternative facts and checked facts

Mr Spicer speaking to reporters at the White House last Friday. He said Mr Trump drew "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration", but there is no evidence to support this.
Mr Spicer speaking to reporters at the White House last Friday. He said Mr Trump drew "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration", but there is no evidence to support this.PHOTO: NYTIMES


Trump said: President Donald Trump said last Saturday that 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."

In fact, he repeatedly criticised the intelligence agencies during his transition to office and 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 tweet.


Trump said: "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."

In fact, aerial photographs clearly showed the crowd did not stretch to the Washington Monument.

An analysis by The New York Times, comparing photographs from last Friday to those taken of Mr Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, showed that the crowd at Mr Trump's inauguration was significantly smaller and less than the 1.5 million people he claimed.

An expert hired by The New York Times found that Mr Trump's crowd on the National Mall was about a third of the size of Mr Obama's in 2009.


Trump said: He 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."

In fact, it began to rain lightly almost exactly as he began to speak and continued to do so throughout his remarks, which lasted about 18 minutes, and after he finished.


Spicer said: White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters last Saturday: "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and around the globe."

In fact, 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 Republican President Ronald Reagan did in 1981 (42 million), Nielsen reported. Figures for online viewership were not available.


Spicer said: Washington's Metro system had greater ridership last Friday than it did for Mr Obama's 2013 inauguration. He said: "We know 420,000 people used the DC Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama's last inaugural."

In fact, neither number is correct, according to the transit system. There were 570,557 entries into the rail system last Friday, compared with 782,000 in 2013.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Alternative facts and checked facts'. Print Edition | Subscribe