President Donald Trump has wasted no time in reigniting his war with the media, launching a strident attack on journalists on his first full day in the job.
The flashpoint came after the new president claimed the crowd at his inauguration ceremony was the biggest in history.
In a combative tone, Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted that the swearing-in was “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the world”.
The problem was, both Mr Trump and his spokesman were wrong. Photos clearly showed that the crowds were visibly smaller than Barack Obama’s 2009 swearing-in, when an estimated 1.8 million people attended. Ratings also were lower for Mr Trump’s swearing-in than they were in 2009, by 18 percent.
The figures didn’t stop him sending out a tweet boasting that he attracted more viewers than the last inauguration, which was true – however second term presidents don’t usually attract huge numbers.
Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the Inauguration, 11 million more than the very good ratings from 4 years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2017
But Mr Spicer slammed the media for trying to “lessen the enthusiasm” of Mr Trump’s inauguration through reporting on crowd size.
— Binyamin Appelbaum (@BCAppelbaum) January 20, 2017
White House Chief of Staff weighs in
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has now intensified the Trump administration’s criticism of the news media, accusing it of trying to delegitimise Donald Trump’s presidency and vowing to fight such coverage “tooth and nail.”
“The media from day one has been talking about delegitimising the election,” Priebus told Fox News.
He accused the media of attacks on the new president, saying “we’re not going to sit around and take it.”
Trump’s first war
“I have a running war with the media,” Mr Trump later said. “They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”
The comment was made during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a group he likened to Nazis only a week ago. But he also blamed that on the press, saying “they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community”.
“The reason you’re the No.1 stop is,” Mr Trump told the CIA workers, “it is exactly the opposite. I love you, I respect you, there’s nobody I respect more.”
Mr Spicer also contended that security officials were more aggressive in their use of metal detectors, keeping more spectators from witnessing the ceremony.
Whatever the actual numbers, the crowd size for the inauguration was dramatically smaller than the estimated number women who turned out on Saturday to protest Mr Trump’s inauguration, which across America stretched into the millions.
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women, thronged New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver and Boston, adding to a public outpouring of dissent against Mr Trump unmatched in modern US politics for a new president’s first full day in office.
So-called Sister March organisers estimated 750,000 demonstrators swarmed the streets of Los Angeles, one of the largest of Saturday’s gatherings.
The women-led protests against Mr Trump, who has vowed that US policy would be based on the principle of “America first”, also were staged in Sydney, Auckland, London, Tokyo and other cities across Europe and Asia.
– with AAP