Renowned Liar Sean Spicer Lied About Lying To The Press
Spicer Pledges Not To Intentionally Lie To The Media As Press Secretary
Spicer Pledges To “Never Knowingly Say Something That Is Not Factual” As White House Press Secretary. During the January 23 White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer pledged that his “intention is never to lie” to the press, adding, “I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them. And if we make a mistake, we’ll do our best to correct it.” From the January 23 White House press briefing:
JON KARL: Before I get to a policy question, just a question about the nature of your job.
SEAN SPICER: Yeah.
KARL: Is it your intention to always tell the truth from that podium? And will you pledge to never to knowingly say something that is not factual?
SPICER: It is. It’s an honor to do this. And yes, I believe that we have to be honest with the American people. 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 is never to lie to you, Jonathan.
We’re going to do our best every time we can. I’m going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them. And if we make a mistake, we’ll do our best to correct it. [White House press briefing, 1/23/17]
LIE 1: Spicer Doubled Down On The False Claim That Trump Had The Most-Watched Inaugural Of All Time
Spicer: “I Don’t Think There’s Any Question That It Was The Largest-Watched Inauguration Ever.” When asked if he stood by his claim that Trump’s inauguration “was the most-watched inaugural address,” Spicer doubled-down, claiming, “I don’t see any numbers that dispute that.” Spicer added, “I don’t think there’s any question that it was the largest-watched inauguration ever.” From the January 23 White House press briefing:
JON KARL: Do you stand by your statement that was the most-watched inaugural address?
SEAN SPICER: Sure, it was the most-watched inaugural. When you look at just the one network alone got 16.9 million people online. Another couple of the networks, there were tens of millions that watched that online. Nevermind the audience that was here. Thirty-one million people watched it on television. Combine that with the tens of millions of people that watched it online on a device? It’s unquestionable. And I don’t see any numbers that dispute that. When you add up attendance, viewership, total audience in terms of tablets, phones, on television. I’d love to see any information that proves that otherwise.
If you add up the network streaming numbers, Facebook, YouTube, all of the various livestreaming that we have numbers on so far, I don’t think there’s any question that it was the largest-watched inauguration ever. [White House press briefing, 1/23/17]
FACT: “There’s No Evidence” To Support Spicer’s Claim
Wash. Post: “There’s No Evidence” That Spicer’s Claim Is “True.” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump said of Spicer’s claim, “There’s no evidence that’s true.” Bump pointed out that Spicer ignored the “maximum number of concurrent viewers” online and that “CNN’s live-stream numbers for Obama[’s inauguration] were even bigger” than Trump’s. From the January 23 fact check (emphasis original):
After walking through various metrics that he suggested bolstered Trump’s point (though without reiterating the 1.5 million figure [that Trump had cited]), Spicer declared, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”
There’s no evidence that’s true.
During a news conference on Monday, Spicer clarified that his assertion extended beyond just the in-person audience.
Even including TV watchers, Trump trailed several prior presidents. He falls into fifth place since 1969, behind Obama in 2009, Richard Nixon in 1973, Jimmy Carter in 1977 and the high-water mark of Ronald Reagan in 1981.
On top of television, Spicer added online streaming numbers in his news conference on Monday. He cited CNN’s number of streams, which the network pegged at 16.9 million. Add that to Trump’s Nielsen numbers, Spicer suggested — 30.6 million — and you’re already past Reagan and everyone in the pre-Internet era.
That 16.9 million number, though, was streaming starts, meaning that someone popped into the stream and then left it. The maximum number of concurrent viewers — a more comparable number to Nielsen metrics — was 2.3 million at the time Trump took the oath. That would put Trump still 6 million views behind Obama in 2009 and far behind Reagan.
Spicer’s argument also ignores that, eight years ago, CNN’s live-stream numbers for Obama were even bigger. As the Associated Press reported at the time, CNN had 21.3 million streams (presumably starts) in partnership with Facebook that year. The AP had 8 million and the White House 1.3 million. (Update: A reader points out different numbers from CNN in 2009: 27 million total for the day — but 1.3 million concurrent, a million fewer than Trump.) [The Washington Post, 1/23/17]
LIE 2: Spicer Falsely Claimed That Trump’s Feud With The Intelligence Agency Was A Myth
Spicer: It’s A “Myth” That Trump Had A “Rift” With The Intelligence Community. Spicer alleged that Trump’s visit to the CIA on January 21 was meant to “dispel the myth that there was a quote-unquote ‘rift’ between the president and the intelligence community.” From the January 23 press briefing:
SEAN SPICER: [Trump] kept hearing about this rift that existed. He talked about it a couple weeks ago after his briefing, how proud he is and how much he respects the intelligence community. And I think when he walked into that, and he saw it, he wanted to make sure the people knew that what you’re hearing on television or in reports about this rift, I have the utmost respect for you, I honor your service, I’m proud of what you’re doing and the sacrifices that you’re making. And I think that he wanted them to know that you see and hear all this stuff on TV about this rift that so-called exists. And clearly it doesn’t matter. Like, don’t believe what you’re hearing. Know that I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. I appreciate everything that you’re doing. And I think that’s why he wanted to do it, was to make sure that they understand, and they heard first-hand, how much he respects them, how much he wanted to dispel the myth that there was a quote-unquote “rift.” [White House Press Briefing, 1/23/17]
FACT: Trump Disparaged The Intelligence Community Several Times And Compared Intelligence Officials To Nazis
PolitiFact: There Are “Several Specific Instances” Where Trump “Publicly Disparaged The Intelligence Community.” PolitiFact laid out “several specific instances when” Trump “publicly disparaged the intelligence community.” In the fact check, PolitiFact pointed out that Trump “said that intelligence officials had used Nazi-like tactics against him and belittled the agencies as a whole for their incorrect belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction” and that he “also openly doubted their conclusions during the campaign that Russia was trying to interfere with the presidential election.” From the January 22 fact check:
We count several specific instances when he publicly disparaged the intelligence community.
Trump’s language took a sharper tone when CNN reported on Jan. 10, 2017, about a file claiming that the Russians had embarrassing personal and financial information on Trump. According to reports, the file had actually been compiled by people working for Trump’s American political opponents and leaked to the press. CNN reported that intelligence officials also received the file and had briefed both Trump and President Barack Obama about its existence.
On Jan. 11, Trump tweeted “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Trump didn’t back down when he was asked about the Nazi comparison at a press conference later that day.
“I think it was disgraceful — disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out,” he said. “I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that — and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”
Trump also tweeted his suspicions that intelligence officials were behind the leaked file.
“Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans – FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists. Probably released by ‘Intelligence’ even knowing there is no proof, and never will be.”
Throughout the campaign, Trump consistently expressed doubt that Russia had meddled in the election at all. Allegations that Russia had stolen emails off the Democratic National Committee server were circulating by September.
National security historian Stephen Walt at Harvard University’s Kennedy School told us no other modern president has attacked the intelligence community in the way Trump has.
“Trump went well beyond the norm in this charge and now pretends he didn’t pick a fight with them, even though his remarks are a matter of public record,” Walt said.
While he did call himself a “big fan” and respected the service of the members of the intelligence community, he also lashed out on several occasions. He said that intelligence officials had used Nazi-like tactics against him and belittled the agencies as a whole for their incorrect belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Trump also openly doubted their conclusions during the campaign that Russia was trying to interfere with the presidential election. [PolitiFact, 1/22/17]
LIE 3: Spicer Hyped Trump’s False Claim That Millions Voted Illegally In The 2016 Election
Spicer Claimed A Pew Study “Showed 14 Percent Of People Who Voted Were Non-Citizens.” When asked about Trump’s persistent claim that “millions voted illegally” in the 2016 election, Spicer claimed that Trump “does believe that.” Spicer cited a study “that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who had voted were non-citizens.” From the January 24 press briefing:
CECILIA VEGA: Does the president believe that millions voted illegally in this election and what evidence do you have of widespread voter fraud in this election, if that’s the case?
SEAN SPICER: The president does believe that. He has stated that before. I think he’s stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.
VEGA: But exactly what evidence? Speaker Ryan today said there’s no evidence, the National Association of Secretaries of State say that they don’t agree with the president’s assessment.What evidence do you have?
SPICER: I think there’s been studies. There’s been one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who had voted were non-citizens. There’s other studies that have been presented to him. It’s a belief he maintains. [White House press briefing, 1/24/17, 1/24/17]
FACT: There’s No Evidence That Millions Voted Illegally
Author Of The Pew Study Spicer Mentioned: “That Report Made No Findings” Concerning Voter Fraud.
NY Times: Officials Found “Next To None” When Searching For Voter Fraud Cases. A New York Times report stated that “the overwhelming consensus” among election officials who “have been adding up how many credible reports of fraud they actually received” is that there were “next to none.” From the December 18 New York Times report:
After all the allegations of rampant voter fraud and claims that millions had voted illegally, the people who supervised the general election last month in states around the nation have been adding up how many credible reports of fraud they actually received. The overwhelming consensus: next to none.
In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation. [The New York Times, 12/18/16]