There was a clear theme of the Trump administration’s first full day in power, and it wasn’t “Make America Great Again.”
Instead, in both President Trump’s address to CIA employees and Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s combative conference held with the White House press pool, a theme of an administrative war against the media emerged.
Spicer was not subtle in his comments to the press. After taking the podium, he told the room that before sharing news on the President’s first actions in office, he wanted to address the coverage of the previous day.
“Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting,” he said.
Spicer cited two instances of the “false reporting” on Twitter, the first of which, about an inaccurate report that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office was removed, was corrected and retracted by the reporter in question, Time‘s Zeke Miller. On Twitter last night, Spicer accepted Miller’s apology for the mistake. At the press conference today, he called the incident “irresponsible and reckless.”
Spicer’s second complaint was about the aerial photos from the Inauguration being “intentionally framed in a way… to minimize the enormous support that it gathered on the National Mall.” He blamed white ground coverings and fencing on the Mall for skewing the visual as well, and accused some unspecified parties for tweeting out inaccurate attendance numbers.
Although he admitted “no one had numbers” (attendance numbers have not been released by the National Park Service, which controls the Mall), he proceeded to estimate the size of the gathered crowd. “This is the largest audience to ever witness an Inauguration, period,” he said emphatically, “both in person and around the globe.”
Spicer claimed a picture printed in the New York Times todaymore accurately represented the crowd, showcasing its “intensity.” Spicer called any attempts to lessen the country’s enthusiasm about the Inauguration “shameful and wrong.”
From there, Spicer shifted gears to talk about President Trump’s trip to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, describing an overflow crowd that was ecstatic to receive his first visit.
While he was there, Trump didn’t just insinuate hostility for the press (although he used the term “the dishonest media” almost immediately), he flat out admitted it. “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” he said. Trump said this because he balked at the way his disturbing dismissal of CIA reports about Russian interference with the election was covered, as if it were a feud between he and the agency.
Like Spicer, the president took issue with the way the media represented the inauguration.
…honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument. And I turn on and by mistake I get this network, and it showed an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now, that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.
He went on to discuss the Martin Luther King bust controversy and how frequently he’d been featured on the cover of Time, claiming he’s been on it 15 times last year.
Counting illustrations, he was in fact on the magazine’s cover eight times last year.
The president was addressing CIA employees in front of the agency’s Memorial Wall, which is covered by 117 stars commemorating the agency’s operative’s who have been killed in the field.
By spending his time at the CIA lambasting the media, President Trump has put its members (myself included) in a tough spot. How can we fulfill our essential role of reporting the actions of those in power and contextualizing their statements if those statements do little more than belittle and attack us?
According to Spicer, that role isn’t even necessary. According to him, the press secretary, there is no place for the press in Trump’s administration.
“There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable,” he said. “I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable as well. The American people deserve better and as long as he serves as the messenger for this incredible movement, he will take his message directly to the American people, where his focus will always be.”