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CLOSESpokesman Sean Spicer says media too negative about Trump and his 'movement'
Spokesman Sean Spicer says media too negative about Trump and his 'movement'

Press secretary Sean Spicer defended his integrity during a press briefing at the White House saying ‘I believe that we have to be honest with the American people.’ USA TODAY NETWORK

WASHINGTON — After a weekend blowup about inaugural crowd sizes, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that reporters are too negative toward President Trump — part of an initial media briefing that displayed a new approach to choosing questioners and the Trump administration’s desire to get credit for its early work in office.

“It’s not about one Tweet, it’s not about one picture — it’s about a constant theme … the default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing,” Spicer said during his first formal briefing as presidential spokesman.

Spicer also announced a new effort to bring new types of reporters into the briefing: Four daily “Skype seats” in the press room, available to journalists from outlets not based in Washington.

The new press secretary joked and jousted with reporters about the tense start to Trump White House relations with the press — a short and combative statement he read to reporters late Saturday afternoon about their coverage of the size of the crowds for Trump’s inauguration last Friday.

Seeking to leaven any remaining tension, Spicer opened the proceedings Monday by saying, “I was going to start with a recap of the inauguration, but I think we’ve covered that pretty well.”

Inauguration issues still surfaced, however, and Spicer defended his still-disputed claim that Trump had the most-watched inauguration in history, as well as his approach to the new job.

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“It’s an honor to do this, and, yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people,” the veteran Republican Party spokesman said about his opening weekend as press secretary. “I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts. There are certain things that we may not fully understand when we come out. But our intention’s never to lie to you.”

Fact-checkers bashed Spicer for his statement that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe” — even though aerial photographs showed much fewer people for Trump than for newly sworn-in President Obama eight years ago, as well as much lower mass transit ridership that day.

Defending that statement Monday, Spicer claimed the online viewership [1]of YouTube, Facebook, and news networks.

Trump himself raised the crowd issue, claiming that 1 to 1.5 million people attended, even bringing it up during Saturday remarks to CIA employees. Aides said the president personally ordered Spicer to go out and deliver his statement Saturday.

During his Monday briefing, Spicer said that Trump’s frustration with the crowd size story reflects frustration with what he called a trend: “There’s this constant attempt to undermine his credibility and movement [Trump] represents,” Spicer said.

Aides said Trump was particularly incensed with a mistaken Friday media pool report — quickly retracted — that he had removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., from the Oval Office. “Think about how racially charged that is,” Spicer said.

The rest of Spicer’s first briefing focused on standard White House and political fare, from discussion of the executive orders signed by Trump[2] to the new president’s upcoming meetings with the leaders of Great Britain and Mexico.

Spicer’s briefing drew a packed house to the briefing room, with reporters and television cameras lining the walls. White House aides watched from the sidelines, including presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and communications adviser — and former Apprentice star — Omarosa Manigault.

In a break from long-held protocol, Spicer did not give the first question to the Associated Press correspondent, opting instead for the New York Post and then moving to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Over the weekend, criticism of Spicer spread across social media[3] and even spilled into the world of professional sports.

Steve Kerr, coach of basketball’s Golden State Warriors, invoked the press secretary’s name in joking about his long-ago, short playing stint with the Orlando Magic: “Sean Spicer will be talking about my Magic career any second now  … 14,000 points! Greatest player in Magic history!”

Trump scorned many journalists throughout his presidential campaign, and there is evidence it helped him with many voters. Conservative Republicans have long distrusted the media, and the journalism profession’s approval ratings are low — in some cases lower than those of politicians.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, an adviser to Trump during the campaign, described reporters as “mortal enemies,” and told Fox News that Trump’s team should realize that “every day they’re in office — whether it’s four years or eight years, every day — they’re going to have absolute hostility from the propaganda wing of the left.”

Combative at times, conciliatory at others, Spicer also cracked a joke about his predecessor, Obama White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

“I know that Josh Earnest was voted the most popular press secretary by the Press Corps,” Spicer said. “So after reading — checking my Twitter feed — I shot Josh an email last night letting him know that he can rest easy, that his title is secure for at least the next few days.”

[5]President Trump holds a letter left for him by former 3 of 15

[6]Trump speaks at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., 4 of 15

[7]The Trumps arrive for a National Prayer Service at 5 of 15

[8]The president and first lady thank guests during the 6 of 15

[9]The Trumps and Pences attend the Freedom Ball on Jan. 7 of 15[10]Trump waves as he walks with first lady Melania Trump 8 of 15[11]Trump is joined by the congressional leadership and 9 of 15[12]Trump greets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 10 of 15[13]Trump and Obama arrive for Trump’'s inauguration luncheon 11 of 15[14]The Trumps and Obamas  stand on the steps of the  U.S. 12 of 15[15]Trump is seen speaking on video monitor on the National 13 of 15[16]Trump delivers his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2017, 14 of 15[17]Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, as 15 of 15[18]


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