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Fact check: Trump overstates crowd size; report wrong about missing MLK bust

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President Donald Trump pointed to a member of the audience after speaking at the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va., today.

WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump’s speech today at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency turned into the latest battle in, as he put it, his “running war with the media.” He had two central complaints: that the media misrepresented the size of the crowd at his inauguration and that it was incorrectly reported a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. was removed from the Oval Office. A look at those assertions:

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.

As of 11 a.m. that day, there were 193,000 trips taken, according to the transit service’s Twitter account. At the same hour eight years ago, there had been 513,000 trips. Four years later, there were 317,000 for Obama’s second inauguration. There were 197,000 at 11 a.m. in 2005 for President George W. Bush’s second inauguration.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer later added to the misstatements.

Spicer claimed that it was the first time white “floor coverings” were used to protect the grass on the National 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.”

Spicer then said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.”

He offered no evidence and there is no immediate way to confirm such a claim.

But photo taken during Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration showed substantially more people on the Mall. It is not known how many people watched the ceremony on television around the globe. In the U.S., Nielsen estimates 31 million viewers watched TV coverage, but that’s less than Barack Obama’s and Ronald Reagan’s first inaugurations.

The exact size of the crowd Friday may never be known. The National Park Service stopped providing estimates in the 1990s.


TRUMP: The president also went after a reporter who incorrectly wrote that the president had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. The reporter later acknowledged the error, saying a Secret Service agent and a door had obstructed his view of the bust when reporters were allowed into the room briefly after Trump’s swearing in.

“But this is how dishonest the media is,” Trump said.

“Now, big story, the retraction was like, where?” he asked. “Was it a line or do they even bother running it?”

THE FACTS: Trump is right. The reporter for Time magazine made an error. The White House said Trump never removed the King bust from the Oval Office.

The error about the bust was first transmitted in a pool report distributed among reporters. The White House often uses a pool system when not all reporters who want to attend an event can be accommodated in a space.

At 7:30 p.m., reporter Zeke Miller wrote a pool report saying, “The MLK bust was no longer on display.”

Once Miller realized his error, an update was sent to the pool. “The MLK bust remains in the Oval Office, in addition to the Churchill bust, per a WH aide. It was apparently obscured by a door and an agent during the spray. Your pool offers sincerest apologies.”

Miller also corrected the error on Twitter, and Time magazine corrected its story based on his report.

“Correction: An earlier version of the story said that a bust of Martin Luther King had been moved. It is still in the Oval Office,” it reads.


Reach Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire at twitter.com/JonLemire and Jill Colvin at twitter.com/colvinj

98 responses to “Fact check: Trump overstates crowd size; report wrong about missing MLK bust”

  1. jusris says:

    HAHAHAHA!!!! Keep it up SA, these Trumpers are outnumbered…And shame on that reporter for his Fake News but will the Trumpers hold him to that same standard…#MAGA

    • jusris says:

      “…but will the Trumpers hold Trump to that same standard”

      • awahana says:

        “He offered no evidence and there is no immediate way to confirm such a claim.”

        Already, the childishness of the T administration. Excuses, lies and false statements on petty things like this inaugural attendance. Four years of this? OMG.

    • kuroiwaj says:

      IRT Jusris, yep, hold the press and President Trump to the standards of truth. When that occurs, all America wins.

      • thos says:

        I haven’t had this much fun since Spiro-my-hero Agnew ripped into the so called “news” media 48 years ago. And we shall enjoy this ongoing entertainment for at least the next four years.

        Donald Trump is to be congratulated for making EXACTLY the right enemies:

        – – One the one hand the media hate his guts and will continue their savage lying attacks without let up in hopes of doing to POTUS 45 what they did the Bush 43.

        – – On the other, the media have encountered for the first time in their sorry lives a Republican who is NOT castrati, trying to make nice by singing soprano, but a street savvy brawler who LOVES the sting of battle.

        For that reason it is safe to predict the media are going to find out what it is like to be bloodied.

  2. bumbye says:

    Lying is contagious.

  3. localcitizen says:

    Trusting the press is the real mistake. Self promoting. Self important. Changing facts to sell their point of view

    Trump is right about that

    • Valleyisle57 says:

      Oh please! The only one overstating anything is Chump! He’s so full of himself that he can’t even start to focus on the job of running this country!

      • MillionMonkeys says:

        Our best hope is that his advisers and cabinet appointees will do their jobs smart and reasonably (I’m sure a bunch of them will somehow come across sweetheart deals after the term is over) while Trump lives out his reality show fantasy. I don’t care if Trump is written into the books as the 45th POTUS alongside great leaders like Lincoln, Roosevelt, Washington, etc. (and he’s convinced he’s already one of the highest rated)….

        …just as long as he doesn’t hand us over to Russia or Kim Jung Un, or maybe get us blown off the planet. Then I’d object!

        • sandi2000 says:

          What a dumb analysis probably from an ignorant person.

        • thos says:

          Watching those of your ilk writhe in helpless agony is more fun than a barrel of your simian ancestors.

        • klastri says:

          thos – You think that having a million people march in protest is “helpless agony?” Then you weren’t very good in History class. Trump can’t do anything without the House, and they are up for re-election in two years. A lot of them are already losing sleep about being tossed out of office, and they’re saying so.

          Trump’s mindless agenda will be derailed by a mixture of protests, deluging House members’ phones every day, and non-stop legal action. He’s going to be able to do some damage, but not as much as you think.

        • sarge22 says:

          Good morning crickets. No time for political BS today. It’s football. Bye bye

    • NITRO08 says:

      Time for you to wake up. Red is red, black is black and trump lies a lot.

    • 808ikea says:

      I’ve come to realize that with Trump the facts do not matter. Being informed doesn’t matter. Being prepared doesn’t matter. Having decent values like respect, compassion, intergrity they don’t matter. What does matter is that he has a stage and microphone. It’s all about him. Hail to the chief.

      • sarge22 says:

        The fact that matters is that Donald Trump is our President.

      • keaukaha says:

        It should be hail to the THIEF!

      • thos says:

        Time to follow the bouncing ball 808ikea
        And sing along to the tune of ‘Glow little glow worm’:

        Quake in fear you poor little snowflake
        Tremble, groan, and shiver
        Thanks to TRUTH arrows ashake
        From a bountiful quiver

        FINALLY in the WH a patriotic American
        One whose winning campaign
        He so tremendously ran
        So we deplorables could survive the pain

        Soon in all media will appear
        His victorious smiling face
        To remind one and all
        That all is NOT about race

        For an octave of years
        We’ve suffered sorry and torment
        At the hands of one who should
        Never ever have been President

        So squirm, snivel, hide, and tremble
        You sour grape losers
        At the hands of wise Electors
        Intelligent vote choosers

        • klastri says:

          Read Trump’s Twitter feed today. He is the President of the United States and he is obsessed with TV ratings for his inauguration.

          Everyone, at this sad point, must be able to see that Trump is insane.

        • sarge22 says:

          Everyone, at this sad point, must be able to see that klastri is insane. That was easy and not bad for an eight year old or was it eighth grader?

    • McKinley High says:

      Congress should send Trump a short message “Your Fired”.


      • thos says:

        If your testimony is any indication it would appear that McKinley long ago abandoned teaching any of its victims, er high school students, anything at all about Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution.

        But HEY.

        Don’t let mere ignorance slow YOU down.

        Feel free to embarrass yourself and your school even more.

  4. bumbye says:

    If they lie this easily, will we believe them when they make statements about something of real importance?

    • jusris says:

      Correct, how will we ever believe the President when he is telling the truth…Trump needs to choose his lies a little better, get more bang for his buck, crowd lies are a wasted lie…#MAGA

    • DannoBoy says:

      Trump has a big tent. All are welcome here (as long as you always praise our glorious leader and attack his many ememies no matter what).

      Today, Trump again declared war against “the media”, full of so many many liars.

      There were definitely 1.5 million loyal Trump supporters at the inauguration, filling the entire Mall from the capitol to the Washington monument. Way way more than Obama. Trump said so, so it must be true.

      Sure the photos didn’t show that. But just like climate science and political polling, aerial photography is a creature of the liberal leftist science community.

      Who are you going to believe, our glorious truth-telling Trump or your own lying eyes?

      • DannoBoy says:

        Full Trump quote: “I am so behind you. I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you wanted and you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say, ‘please don’t give us so much backing,’”

        Trump will keep giving CIA leaders strong “backing”, over and over until they beg him to stop the backing, “For the love of God. Please stop the backing! We’ll do whatever you say.”

        Trump’s response: “OK CIA leaders. Let’s what can be done. Do you happen to have anyone there good at doctoring aerial crowd photos? Just curious. Oh, you do? Great. I think maybe we can stop all the strong ‘backing’ I’ve been giving you from behind. Lord Bannon, gather your troll army. We’re going to have some beautiful photo’s to share!”

      • MillionMonkeys says:

        1.5 million? Are you LIAR? My Russian associates assure me there were 2.5 MILLION happy smiling villagers dancing along the streets, dressed in bright traditional clothing, dining on the finest goat cheese and vodka. It was a beautiful inspiring spectacle, a modern day Potemkin!

        #MRGA (Make Russki Great Again!)

        • DannoBoy says:

          I stand corrected, MightyMonkey. Strong work for Team Trump!

          He is the great and powerful Trump!..
          Don’t pull back the curtain, and…
          Pay no attention to that funny little man with the bad comb-over!

          BTW, Trump got 1000% of the Potemkin vote, including it’s entire contingent of Facebook trolls. They love a winner. They do.

          We’re definiyely not in Kansas any more, Toto. Definitely not.

  5. jusris says:

    Fact check: Trump is fake news…See how easy that was…#MAGA

  6. wrightj says:

    Bigger crowds in the demonstrations than the inauguration.

  7. skinut says:

    It’s hilarious how trump whined about a retraction. He never acknowledges his lies or mistakes, and instead, blames others.

    • MillionMonkeys says:

      “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.’”

      Woahahaha! Trump calling someone else a liar! WHILE he is lying! LYIN’ DONNY!

      Now, isn’t that funny? Everyone (Trump fans, HiLALAry fans, Putin fans, etc.), isn’t that funny?

      #MAGA (Make America Giggle Again!)

      • DannoBoy says:

        Trump is the biggest, classiest, most magnificent liar in all of history. The king of the whopper.

        Except Trump won the election. So his lies are now the truth, and the truth tellers are now the liars.

        See how winning changes everything?
        How elections have consequences?
        How Trump’s ability to turn our world upside down, so truth no longer matters, just shows the awesomeness of his dark power?

        Welcome to the deliciously Dark side of power, MonkeyMan.

        • TigerEye says:

          Keaukaha: to whom, or what exactly is this response directed?

        • DannoBoy says:

          I just want to make a few things clear.

          1. I did not vote for mighty Trump. I have no respect for his greed, dishonesty, boasting, tax-dodging, bigotry, hypocrisy, adultery and sex assaults. He is despicable, obnoxious, erratic, ignorant narcissist.

          2. I spent months pointing all this out using the facts and reason, as so msny did throughout the campaign.

          3. But then Trump won. His ardent supporters used his ugly victory to mercilessly hammer away at Trump’s critics, no matter the facts or teasoned argument.

          4. So, I saw the light…er darkness, and joined Team Trump and became another blind follower, a little Trumpette blowing and amplifying Trump’s disturbing message. Yippee!

          5. I am most definitely definitely not producing sarcasm or satire. Honest to Trump. In all sincerity, it’s redictio ad absurdum.

      • keaukaha says:

        Yeah he really is POTMCC. Aka Mickey Mouse Club.

  8. wn says:

    Very skeptical of mainstream media and SA national news based off newlines feed (i.e. AP, New York Times, etc.) and should be taken with skepticism. As for local news, I use local newsprint/online reporting is used to only review the headlines to get a glimpse of what’s “in the news”. Civil Beat, I used to review but found to be even worst than all others. In my opinion, CB headlines are simply based on their own opinion of what is of importance or their own liberal bias. Hawaii Free Press seems to cover more topics and I use to review headlines. As for TV news…most seems focused on “celebrity” newscasters. My personal ranking, KHON passable and at the bottom of the list is KGMB won’t go there “Hotdog Hagi”, even though I’m local I just can’t seem to embrace his style. That leaves cable News…well it’s that “Fair and Balance” channel…like their Business Channel. 🙂

  9. klastri says:

    This is how protests against the Vietnam War started. Marches and constant, non-stop badgering of House members and Senators. If House and Senate members believe they are going to lose their jobs, they will dump Mr. Trump in a second.

    Mr. Trump never faced an opposition. He’s not going to like it.

    His lying – like his totally ridiculous crowd estimates – will be believed by an ever shrinking pocket of ignorance.

  10. bombay2101 says:

    Did the media run “Fact Checks” on Obama?

    • klastri says:

      Mr. Obama didn’t lie every time he opened his mouth. Like Mr. Trump does. Trump is a pathological liar.

      • jussayin says:

        Actually Obama did his share of lying, e.g. said high school dropout rate tripled when it declined; said we import more oil today when the peak was in 2005 and imports are actually much lower now; falsely accused nominee Romney that he “backed a law that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest”, but that wasn’t Romney’s position and there was no such law … etc. And as you pointed out Trump does the same or similar. And Ms. Clinton is probably the worse of the bunch.

        • skinut says:

          Hardly. It’s not even close. Politifact determined that trump lied at a prolific rate during his campaign. The comparison between trump and clinton was not even close, with trump telling “pants on fire” lies more than 50 times and clinton telling 5 of that variety.

    • mulen says:

      Did they need to? And remember when Chump questioned Director Fuddy’s death (trying to relate it to the supposedly fake Obama birth certificate)?

      • sarge22 says:

        klastri the pathological liar lawyer can’t handle defeat. Keep chirping.

        • thos says:

          But you have to admit Klastri IS endlessly entertaining what with his willingness to drop troy and embarrass himself in a public forum over and over again.

        • bumbye says:

          By this time and looking forward, it’s not about victory or defeat. It’s about idiocy. So please retire the “she lost, deal with it” theme.

  11. latenightroach says:

    The footage I saw showed a huge crowd. The biased media lied about this in an attempt to minimize the support that Trump has. We’re definitely here and we’re not going away. Priceless was the moment when Obama’s head was bowed down while Trump was slamming the establishment. Cry, whine, deny, hate, & demonstrate all you want libs and dems. We are stronger than you think.

  12. IAmSane says:

    “Anything I don’t want to hear about is Fake News™.”

  13. jussayin says:

    As we saw last year, be careful about believing the media. Lots of fake news, biased coverage, totally off polls (Brexit, election), etc. Anything about Trump continues to raise negative media coverage. If he sneezes they’ll say he was rude. Hopefully the media will cover more important matters in our country than how many people attended.

  14. sarge22 says:

    Chirp chirp loser. Trump 2020

  15. WalkoffBalk says:

    He was counting using small hands.

  16. nomu1001 says:

    Disappointed by the reaction of the people attending the CIA meeting with Trump, laughing and applauding at what were clearly inappropriate commentary by our POTUS. This kind of reaction by the employees attending speaks to the lack of expected professionalism and respect shown at the Memorial Wall. But we also know that these persons do not reflect the dedication and professionalism of the majority. If perchance this display did reflect the majority, we would have very little confidence in and be extremely disheartened in such a revered agency as the CIA.

  17. CEI says:

    The AP fact checking? That’s rich. Maybe CNN should get into the business too.

  18. willman says:

    Just like Obama and Clinton, Trump lies and deceives. Perhaps Snow White will consider ruining for President.

  19. tutulois says:

    I think this newspaper will need to post a Fact Check for every day this clown is in office. One thing he’s evidently learned from Putin is how to deliver lies with a straight face and try to sell them as truth. And his kids have learned from him — Ivanka lied about her academic achievements on the jacket of one of her books.

    • thos says:

      every day this clown is in office ??

      You still haven’t caught on yet, have you.

      He is not the clown, YOU are.

      Watching you pitiful Trump-deniers attempt to twist Truth in your pathetic little, limp wristed fashion is more amusing than you can possibly imagine.

  20. Shotzy says:

    It doesen’t matter if 3 people were at the inauguration. What matters is that the media WILL BE CALLED OUT every time they print or say dishonest statements. This has been a long time coming and very rightfully deserved.

    • skinut says:

      Similarly, trump’s many lies will be scrutinized. Now that he is prez, the whole world will see his lies.

    • TigerEye says:

      If only three people attended and the two amigos had bragged about 1.5 million, it “doesn’t matter?” Doesn’t compute seems more fitting.

      If your statement was intended as a shot at the media, it backfired. Please clean your weapon.

  21. GoldenDisk says:

    A quick research shows Trump was correct about his main complaint, and the AP was correct about some errors in his statement. Trump’s main complaint was that a network incorrectly stated only 250,000 attended the inaugural. He said that 250,000 was already by the main stage, but he could see crowds beyond that point, up to the Washington Monument.
    Per CNN, 250,000 tickets were distributed (for the viewing area around the stage). CNN wrote, “That number is on par with the distributed tickets for previous ceremonies. Most onlookers are beyond the ticketed point and watch the proceedings from the National Mall.”
    Maps show that viewers were allowed up to the WWII memorial. The ticketed area is about 1/3 of the way to the WWII memorial. Photos show that the ticketed area was full and that there were more than double that amount of people beyond the ticketed area. So Trump was correct that the reported 250,000 attendance was wrong.
    AP was correct that the crowds did not extend to the Washington Monument, which AP says Trump had stated. The non-ticketed viewing area only extends up to the WWII memorial. This is about 2/3 of the way between the stage and the Washington monument. Trump did see crowds beyond the ticketed area but was mistaken as to how far the crowds went. Photos show that there were crowds up to the WWII memorial.
    For photo of the crowds and information about the ticketing, see: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/donald-trump-barack-obama-inauguration-crowd-size/index.html. For a map of the inaugural viewing areas, see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/local/2017-inauguration-map/ and https://www.nps.gov/nama/planyourvisit/maps.htm.

    • GoldenDisk says:

      I made a mistake in saying the WWII memorial was between the Washington monument and the stage. The Washington Monument is between the stage and the WWII memorial. It does appear that the crowds are up to the WWII memorial in comparing the photo and the maps.

  22. BadBingo says:

    He plays us and the media like a violin. Here we are talking about silliness when we are NOT talking about how he made buying a home MORE expensive for poor and middle class home buyers. We are such suckers.

    • DannoBoy says:

      Bingo, badbingo, you get the prize.

      Trump’s strategy is pure luxurious evil genius.

      Trump’s classy Senior White House counselor, Steve “Dark Lord” Bannon, revealed our game plan in November:

      “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to what we’re doing.”


      [Please moderator, don’t mindlessly censor the quoted words of the top adviser to the President of the United States.]

  23. klastri says:

    Trump’s history of nonstop lying is ramping up, now that he has hired more people – like Sean Spicer – to lie for him. He’s already made a mess out of the White House Press Office.

    He’s a profoundly mentally ill narcissist who cannot tolerate any discussion that he isn’t the most wonderful, greatest President, with the largest crowds and best ratings. He’s lying. As always.

    His pathetic supporters can’t see it. The rest of the world can.

    He cannot govern without Congress, and he’s already losing them. No honeymoon, Mr. Trump.

  24. matthew56 says:

    so what? obama constantly twisted his statements to fit his agenda even if it was misleading and those drinking his kool-aid just sucked it all up.

    get on to real news. he’s going to chop wasteful government programs and that’s what i want as a taxpayer seeing my tax dollars wasted on ineffective government handout programs. yes it will be painful at times but obama ran up so much debt with his handouts who knows when we will recover from that.

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