President Donald Trump’s press secretary on Saturday slammed what he called inaccurate tweets and reporting that suggested the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was smaller than at past occasions.
Sean Spicer in a statement to reporters also warned "we’re going to hold the press accountable" and suggested Trump doesn’t need the media.
"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," Spicer said.
Spicer, who did not take questions from reporters, spent much of his statement condemning a photo and the reporting around it showing big gaps in the crowds on the National Mall on Inauguration Day. He accused the media of "dishonesty."
"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," Spicer said.
Spicer said white floor coverings to protect the grass "had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual." He also said security measures prevented crowds from quickly accessing the Mall.
Spicer claimed of Trump's inauguration, "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe." He did not provide any evidence.
The Associated Press published a photo and image from video shot from the top of the Washington Monument during Trump's Friday inauguration and Obama's 2009 inauguration — both captured from the monument shortly before noon during each event — that appear very different.
An estimated 1.8 million people gathered to watch Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, be inaugurated in 2009. Spicer cited the fact that the National Park Service doesn't release crowd estimates in disputing reports. The Park Service stopped the practice after the Million Man March in 1995.
In the U.S., Nielsen estimates 31 million viewers watched TV coverage of Trump's inauguration, but that's less than Barack Obama's and Ronald Reagan's first inaugurations, The Associated Press reported.
The Park Service said the coverings are translucent decking to protect the National Mall turf, part of a five-year, $40 million project that was completed in 2016.
Spicer said "This was the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall."
The Park Service said they have been used during other events at the Mall since 2011. Photos show the panels were used on parts of the Mall for Obama's 2013 inauguration.
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, suggested in a Tweet that the strong push back against the crowd size reporting was coming from the top.
"This is called a statement you're told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching," Fleischer said on Twitter.
In a Saturday visit to the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Trump also complained about reports on the crowd size and called the media "dishonest."
He was criticized by some for the remarks. Former CIA Director John Brennan through a spokesman called the speech, given in front of a memorial wall honoring agency employees who died in the line of service, "a despicable display of self-aggrandizement."
"Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA's Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself," Nick Shapiro, former deputy chief of staff under Brennan said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, attacked Trump's public remarks during his CIA visit for giving "little more than a perfunctory acknowledgment" of staffers who have lost their lives on the job.
Spicer said Trump delivered to CIA staff "a powerful and important message: He told them he has their back, and they were grateful for that." An official press briefing will be held Monday.
Spicer also said Trump has spoken with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. British Prime Minister Theresa May will also visit the White House, Spicer said.