In his first appearance since lying to the public on Saturday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was unapologetic, disputing what constitutes facts and ranting about “demoralizing” media coverage of President Donald Trump.
“I believe that we have to be honest with the American people, but I think sometimes we can disagree with the facts,” Spicer told reporters Monday in his first press briefing under Trump.
“Our intention is never to lie to you,” he added.
On Saturday, Spicer called a press conference at the White House, where he proceeded to accuse the media of being dishonest about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration and then refused to take questions.
He doubled down Monday on claims about the inauguration crowd, saying “it’s unquestionable” that Trump’s inauguration was the most-watched in history, despite evidence that the event drew a smaller physical crowd and lower television viewership than past inaugurations.
Spicer went on to complain about coverage of Trump, saying that when the media reports facts about the Trump administration, it’s always “demoralizing.”
“It’s not about one tweet. It’s not about one picture. It’s about a constant theme. It’s about sitting here every time and being told no. ‘Well, we don’t think he can do that. He’ll never accomplish that. He can’t win that. It won’t be the biggest. It’s not going to be that good. The crowds aren’t that big.’ The narrative, the default narrative, is always negative. And it’s demoralizing, and I think that when you sit here and you realize the sacrifices the guy made of leaving a very, very successful business because he really cares about this country and he wants to, despite your partisan differences, he cares about making this country better for everybody, he wants to make it safer for everybody. And so when you wake up every day, and that’s what you’re seeing over and over again, and you’re not seeing stories about the cabinet folks that he’s putting up or the success that he’s having trying to keep American jobs here, yeah, it is a little disappointing.”
Spicer also continued his criticism of Time reporter Zeke Miller, who incorrectly reported that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. Miller quickly corrected his false report and has apologized for the mistake several times.
On Monday, Spicer asked where Miller’s apology was for the incorrect report, despite having accepted Miller’s apology on Jan. 20.
Aside from debating what constitutes a fact, Spicer took several questions on policy issues. The Huffington Post pointed out that 2016 was the hottest year on record and asked how Trump plans to address the fact that scientists say climate change is close to harming human civilization.
“He’s going to meet with his team and figure out what policies are best for the environment,” said Spicer. “One of the things he talked about during the campaign is there’s a balance, and he’s trying to make sure we use our resources appropriately, that we maximize things to make sure that we don’t do so at the detriment of economic growth and job creation.”
His response didn’t clarify much, but it’s worth noting that Trump previously called climate change a hoax created by China, and that his team is composed of people divided on how much human activity contributes to the greenhouse gases heating up the planet. Ninety-seven percent of published scientific studies conclude that human activity is the biggest driver of climate change.
Spicer was also vague on the status of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ― something Trump pledged to do in his campaign, which would mean bucking 20 years of precedent by past presidents.
“We’re in the beginning stages of this decision-making process,” Spicer said. “His team is going to continue to consult with stakeholders to see if we get there.”
He also demurred when asked if he could say unequivocally that Trump won’t send more U.S. troops into Iraq to, as Trump has put it, “take the oil.”
“I’m not going to talk about what we may or may not do,” said Spicer. “I think the president has been very clear that he doesn’t telegraph... taking options off the table. That’s not a good negotiating skill. That’s not how he works.”