The day after Trump’s inauguration, new press secretary Sean Spicer gave his first press conference, in which he harshly criticized the media for reporting inaccurate crowd numbers at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. Spicer also asserted that Trump’s was the most widely-viewed inauguration of all time. However, photos and videos from a variety of media outlets make it clear that this was not the case. Aerial photographs show that the National Mall was never full at any point on Friday; it is estimated that Trump’s crowd was about a third the size of that at Obama’s first inauguration, which drew a record turnout of roughly 1.8 million people.
The following day, when Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was questions about Press Secretary Spicer’s claims, she countered that his words were not lies; rather, they were “alternative facts,” a phrase which immediately drew widespread criticism from the media and around the Internet.
The press has a lot to be talking about as a new president takes over the White House. But, is all this talk of crowd size and alternative facts distracting journalists from more important issues? During his first few days in office, President Trump signed several controversial executive orders, made claims about voter fraud, and began pushing through cabinet advisors whom critics say are unprepared for the job.
Based on what you have seen and heard on the news, YOU DECIDE. Is the media’s criticism of the president focusing on the correct issues?
- The Trump administration’s claims about crowd size are newsworthy when there is ample evidence to disprove them.
- The fact that Trump and his representatives insist on repeating obviously incorrect information casts doubt on Trump’s credibility. This makes citizens more likely to question any future statement made by Trump or his team.
- The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting the government from restricting the press. When Trump claims that the media is lying or presenting the people with false information just because he does not agree with it, he casts doubt on the media’s validity and threatens our constitutional right to a free press.
- Focusing on the size of inauguration day crowds distracted the media from more important issues. Within the first few days of his presidency, Trump signed executive orders that began to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, affecting the health insurance of millions of Americans; made way for the construction of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, causing a foreign policy crisis when the outraged Mexican president cancelled a planned meeting as a result; and reversed Obama’s decision to halt the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline construction. He also announced plans to investigate voter fraud (though no evidence of voter fraud has been found).
- Media attention on Trump’s crowd size statements has also buried important developments as Trump begins to install his cabinet. Criticized for its lack of diversity and lack of experience, Trump’s cabinet picks are currently being approved with the support of Senate Republicans.
- Though stories about crowd size and alternative facts are exciting, “quieter” stories such as cabinet appointments are more important because they will affect the American people for years to come.