‘Not just about crowd size’: Trump is frustrated by his media coverage, spokesman repeatedly says

White House press secretary Sean Spicer expressed exasperation with the media on Monday, repeating several times that President Trump and his team find critical coverage to be “frustrating,” “demoralizing” and “disappointing.”

At his first official press briefing, Spicer faced questions about false statements that both he and the president made over the weekend about the size of the crowd at Trump’s inauguration ceremony.

When asked why so much time had been given to the attendance issue on the president’s first day in office, Spicer insisted, “It’s not just about crowd size,” but rather “overall frustration” that he said Trump and members of his team feel with the media for what the press secretary described as a perceived “constant theme to undercut the enormous support that [Trump] has.”

Spicer touted Trump’s history of having “gone out there and defied the odds over and over and over again.” Accordingly, he said, it was “unbelievably frustrating” and “demoralizing” for his boss to face constant media criticism and doubt.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House Jan. 23. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“Over and over again, there’s this constant attempt to undermine his credibility and the movement that he represents, and it’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s a little demoralizing to turn on the TV day after day and hear, ‘Can’t do this.’”

Though he acknowledged that not every story about Trump will be positive, Spicer argued that the coverage of Trump’s campaign and now his presidency is not “part of what comes with being president of the U.S. and working at the White House,” as CNN’s Jim Acosta suggested during the briefing,

Spicer seemed to suggest that the press should “sit here and realize the sacrifices this guy has made … because he really, really loves his country.”

“It would be nice once in a while for someone to say, report it straight up: ‘He appointed this person, here’s their background,’” Spicer said. “Not, ‘Here’s why they’re not going to get nominated.’”

Although he repeatedly stressed that the debate about the inauguration’s crowd size was part of a larger issue, Spicer appeared to indirectly offer an answer to Acosta’s question about how bothered Trump had been by widely shared images that compared the attendance at his inauguration to that of former President Barack Obama in 2009.

“Looking out, you’re in awe of just how awesome that view is and how many people are there,” he said, referring to Trump’s view of the crowd from the podium where he delivered his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol on Friday. “And you go back and you turn on the TV and you see shots comparing this and that,” and hear “it wasn’t that big.”

“It’s a little demoralizing,” he said.

Hard numbers on the attendance at Trump’s inauguration are not available, but a comparison of photographs taken from the same vantage point on Friday and at Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 — which was attended by an estimated 1.8 million people — showed a significantly smaller turnout for Trump.

According to the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, 193,000 rides had been taken on the D.C. Metro as of 11 a.m. Friday, compared with 513,000 by the same time on the day of Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

During a Saturday visit to CIA headquarters on his first full day as president, Trump accused the media of lying about the size of the audience at his swearing-in ceremony, erroneously claiming that “a million, a million and a half people” had gathered on the National Mall for his inaugural speech the day before.

At a press conference early Saturday evening, Spicer echoed the president’s unsubstantiated outrage, accusing the media of “deliberately false reporting.”

The press secretary simultaneously claimed that attendance numbers were unavailable and that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

Spicer stood by this claim during Monday’s press briefing, insisting that he’d been referring to total viewers, including those who watched the inauguration on television and online, rather than just those who attended in person.

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