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Donald Trump’s team in fresh war of words with US media

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Key figures in Donald Trump’s administration have become embroiled in a fresh war of words with the media. On Saturday the president had condemned media reporting of the number of people attending his inauguration.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is reportered to have said there was “an obsession… to de-legitimise this president. Were not going to sit around and take it.”

But photos show more people attended the inauguration of Mr Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama in 2009. Mr Priebus said on Fox News Sunday that the “media from day one has been talking about de-legitimising the election”. He said Mr Trump’s presidency would fight such coverage “tooth and nail every day”.

The latest row was mainly sparked by the inauguration figures. There were no official estimates. Mr Trump said during a visit to the CIA on Saturday that it “looked like a million and a half people”, but provided no evidence. He called reporters “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth” for saying it was far lower.

His press secretary Sean Spicer outlined figures amounting to 720,000 people in Washington’s National Mall, despite also saying that “no-one had numbers” for the inauguration.

Many US outlets, using photos of the National Mall showing the difference in numbers attending the 2009 inauguration and Mr Trump’s, hit out at Mr Spicer’s statements.

The New York Times denounced “false claims” and described the statements as a “striking display of invective and grievance at the dawn of a presidency”.

Both CNN and ABC News went into detail to refute Mr Spicer’s claims. Top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway also criticised the media during a heated exchange on NBC.

She was challenged by presenter Chuck Todd who asked her why Mr Spicer’s first appearance had been to “utter a probable falsehood”.

“If we are going to keep referring to our press secretary in those type of terms, I think we are going to have to rethink our relationship here,” she said.

Pressed on Mr Spicer’s claims, she said he had been presenting “alternative facts”.

“Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods,” Todd replied.

Ms Conway insisted there was “no way to really quantify crowds” and, taking offence at a laugh from the reporter, said: “You can laugh at me all you want. It’s symbolic of the way we are treated by the press the way you just laughed at me.”

She also highlighted another issue that caused friction with the media – the Time Magazine reporter who incorrectly reported that a bust of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr had been removed from the Oval Office. The reporter later apologised for the error.

“It puts lives at risk” – US media denounce “false claims”

  • The Washington Post said the falsehoods from the White House showed that “the traditional way of reporting on a president is dead”. In future, news organisations should pay less attention to official statements, and instead focus on investigations into Mr Trump’s administration, it said
  • Politico warned of “grave consequences” of the Trump team’s “rocky relationship with the truth”, quoting Democrat congressman Adam Schiff saying that “it absolutely puts lives at risk”. The idea that the White House’s “combative approach” could also apply to “substantive matters of government and national security… has many really worried”, the website said
  • The Atlantic magazine also worried where the administration’s approach could take the country, saying: “If you’re willing to lie about stuff this minuscule, why should anyone believe what you say about the really big things that matter?”
  • The Huffington Post was among those that called for a change in the way news organisations cover statements from the White House. “They should focus attention on the fact that the administration lied, not the content of the lie itself,” it said

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