Not even a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference to blast the media for their coverage of the event. The first official press briefing was not scheduled until Monday but Spicer felt it necessary to set the record straight less than 24 hours into the Trump presidency. In particular, Spicer was very upset about how the media portrayed the meager crowds that turned out to witness a former game show host take the oath of office.
A visibly frustrated and agitated Spicer took the podium Friday evening and immediately began laying into the generalized “media” for what he claimed was “deliberately false reporting”. He then launched into a defensive and nonsensical series of explanations for why the inauguration’s audience seemed so barren. Spicer’s reasons included “floor coverings” intended to “protect the grass” that apparently also have the side-effect of making thousands of alleged inauguration audience members invisible as well as “fences” that slowed down the hypothetical audience that wasn’t actually there.
Spicer then launched into an elaborate series of stats and figures that seemed hazy at best and was capped off with a comparison of the DC Metro passenger figures between Friday’s inauguration and that of Obama back in 2012. Armed with this vague math Spicer then asserted that this was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” and began stumbling over his words as he attempted to drive his point home. Seriously: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu1GViGNxh4
This impromptu presser should essentially set the tone for what Americans can expect from the Trump administration far more than the actual inauguration. Within mere hours of the reporting, Trump sent an upset and irritable Spicer out to scold and shame the media for accurately covering his lackluster inauguration. On the very first day of his presidency Donald Trump showed the American people exactly where his priorities lie – not with the people, the nation or his government but with optics, the media and his ego. It was so critically important to Trump and his administration that they be viewed in a flattering light that they held an unscheduled press briefing to simply berate anyone who dared deviate from their false narrative and therein lies the real threat of the Trump presidency. We all now live in an environment where the truth is actively fought against and where facts are a matter of perspective.
This kind of volatile insecurity was a hallmark of the Trump presidential campaign but many of his supporters and opponents had hoped that he’d take a more measured and thoughtful stride once he took office, Spicer’s briefing has proven otherwise. It’s not simply Trump’s need to validate himself that speaks through this non-event made scandal but also the lengths and justifications that he and his administration are willing to roll out. Spicer broke out rough mathematical estimates and arbitrary transit statistics to try to refute what was plainly visible in photo evidence all the while stammering and stumbling on his words as he walked a fine line between lashing the media and trying to seem an authority.
As Spicer rounded out his briefing he summoned a trademark tactic of the newly minted Trump administration by laying down some grand but conveniently unquantifiable claims about the inauguration proceedings. Spicer claimed that Trump was also at the CIA where he was greeted by a “raucous, overflow crowd”. Keeping in mind of course that this is the same CIA that Trump has spent the last month slinging mud at in Twitter and the mainstream media. The press secretary then stated that the CIA employees were “ecstatic that he’s the new commander in chief” and that they were “grateful” when Trump claimed to “have their back”. Spicer event went so far as to note that Trump received a “five-minute standing ovation” in an expression of their “patriotism and their enthusiasm for his presidency”.
These kinds of elaborate, grandstanding tales are nothing new for the Donald Trump machine and they come with the unique perks of exciting his most loyal followers, arming his supporters with counterfactual citations and building up Trump’s personal brand mythology. The reality however is that this was both an official press briefing by the White House Press Secretary and a powerful piece of misinforming propaganda the likes of which we can safely assume will be in abundant supply over the next four years.