White House vows to fight media 'tooth
and nail' over Trump coverage
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[January 23, 2017]
By Doina Chiacu and Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House
vowed on Sunday to fight the news media "tooth and nail" over what it
sees as unfair attacks, with a top adviser saying the Trump
administration had presented "alternative facts" to counter low
inauguration crowd estimates.
On his first full day as president, Trump said he had a "running war"
with the media and accused journalists of underestimating the number of
people who turned out Friday for his swearing-in.
White House officials made clear no truce was on the horizon on Sunday
in television interviews that set a much harsher tone in the
traditionally adversarial relationship between the White House and the
"The point is not the crowd size. The point is the attacks and the
attempt to delegitimize this president in one day. And we're not going
to sit around and take it," Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on "Fox
The sparring with the media has dominated Trump's first weekend in
office, eclipsing debate over policy and Cabinet appointments.
It was the main theme at the Republican president's first visit to the
CIA, at the press secretary's first media briefing and in senior
officials' first appearances on the Sunday talk shows.
Together, they made clear the administration will continue to take an
aggressive stance with news organizations covering Trump.
"We're going to fight back tooth and nail every day and twice on
Sunday," Priebus said.
He repeated White House press secretary Sean Spicer's assertions on
Saturday that the media manipulated photographs of the National Mall to
make the crowds on Friday look smaller than they really were.
Aerial photographs showed the crowds were significantly smaller than
when Barack Obama took over as president in 2009.
The Washington subway system said it had 193,000 riders by 11 a.m. (1600
GMT) on Friday, compared with 513,000 at that time during the 2009
Spicer's categorical assertion that "this was the largest audience to
ever witness an inauguration - period" was widely challenged in media
reports citing crowd count experts and was lampooned on social media as
Asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" why the press secretary was uttering
provable falsehoods, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway fired
"If we are going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types
of terms I think that we are going to rethink our relationship here,"
Conway responded to criticism that the new administration was focusing
on crowds rather than on significant domestic and foreign policy issues
by saying: "We feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put
alternative facts out there."
[to top of second column]
Press Secretary Sean Spicer deliver an statement at the press
briefing room at the White House in Washington U.S., January 21,
2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Priebus and Conway focused on a press pool report that said the bust
of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from
the Oval Office after Trump took office. The report on Friday night
was quickly corrected, but Trump called out the reporter by name
during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency on Saturday.
Spicer also berated the reporter later in the day.
With the Nov. 8 election results shadowed by U.S. intelligence
reports of Russian meddling on his behalf, Trump has bristled at
reports suggesting his popular support is soft and that the election
was not legitimate.
Trump, who lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by
nearly 3 million votes, made no mention of Russia in his first visit
to the CIA on Saturday. He praised his nominee to head the agency,
Mike Pompeo, and ranted against the "dishonest" media, a favorite
target during his presidential campaign.
The president accused the media of fabricating his tensions with the
U.S. intelligence community, despite his frequent posts on Twitter
that derided the agencies.
Trump drew criticism from Democrats as well as former CIA Director
John Brennan for his remarks at the agency, where he spoke before a
memorial wall with stars representing personnel killed in action.
"President Trump ought to realize he's not campaigning anymore. He's
president," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on ABC's
"Instead of talking about how many people showed up at his
inauguration, he ought to be talking about how many people are going
to stay in the middle class and move into the middle class."
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul
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