White House press secretary Sean Spicer appeared in the press briefing room around 5:40 p.m. ET with a stern message for the media: as you hold the Trump administration accountable, we’re going to hold you accountable too.
“Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting,” Spice began. In one case he called out TIME reporter Zeke Miller for a “particularly egregious example” of false reporting on Twitter: that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office. It hasn’t.
But Spicer saved most of his ire for the reporting on the crowd size at the inauguration. “This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration. Period! Attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful, and wrong,” Spicer admonished.
There’s been a lot of talk about the media holding Donald Trump accountable. And I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We are going to hold the press accountable as well.
Spicer did not take questions. MSNBC and Fox News carried the announcement live. CNN chose to play the clip back after it aired since they had a sense of what was coming (as did most in the press corps since the announcement was delayed an hour, and video monitors showed the inauguration crowd.)
Enough with the #%*&ing crowd size. https://t.co/4G0KNPlDz2
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 21, 2017
Later, CNN’s Jim Acosta reported that Spicer’s admonishment “is really something that is unprecedented. To have that happen it is really astonishing,” Acosta said.
Pres. George W. Bush‘s first press secretary Ari Fleischer had his own take on Spicer’s appearance.
This is called a statement you're told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 21, 2017