WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency turned into the latest battle with the media, this one mainly over his claim that the media misrepresented the size of the crowd at his inauguration. A look at the assertion:
TRUMP: “I made a speech. I looked out. The field was — it looked like a million, a million and a half people.”
The president went on to say that one network “said we drew 250,000 people. Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie.” He then claimed that were 250,000 right by the stage and the “rest of the, you know, 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.”
“So we caught them,” said Trump. “And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.”
THE FACTS: Trump is wrong. Photos of the National Mall from his inauguration make clear that the crowd did not extend to the Washington Monument. Large swaths of empty space are visible on the Mall.
Thin crowds and partially empty bleachers also dotted the inaugural parade route. Hotels across the District of Columbia reported vacancies, a rarity for an event as large as a presidential inauguration. And ridership on the Washington’s Metro system didn’t match that of recent inaugurations.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer later said it was the first time white “floor coverings” were used to protect the grass on the Mall and that it drew attention to any empty space. But the same tarp was used four years ago.
Spicer also said it was “the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past.”
The Secret Service says that this was the first time security fencing was installed around the National Mall for an inauguration. To get onto the Mall, people were required to go through one of seven checkpoints where their bags were checked, but there were no magnetometers used at those checkpoints.
A law enforcement official not authorized to publicly discuss the inauguration says officials were “not aware of any issues with flow rate in and around the National Mall.”