Sean Spicer’s first press conference was pretty firey. The most eye-catching part of it was his argument that Trump’s inauguration had the highest attendance ever.
That was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period.
His was a pretty complex argument. There were two lines of reasoning. The first, to rebut the claims that the photographic evidence shows attendance to be significantly lower than Obama’s ’09. The second, to make the case for a very large number. The largest number, period.
The rebutting argument was that the photo doesn’t accurately represent attendance, because the mall wasn’t the place where all the people were (because of fencing, metal detectors, etc.) and because the materials on the ground make the open spaces look larger.
The positive argument was that the spaces filled during the inauguration added up to a very large number.
We do know a few things. So let’s go through the facts. We know that from the platform from where the President was sworn in to 4th Street holds about 250,000 people. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000. And from the media tent to the Washington Monument another 250,000 people. All of this space was full when the President took the oath of office.
So that’s about 720K. (Trump claimed it was 1.5 million, when he was at the CIA office, later.)
But here’s the thing. Estimated attendance at Obama’s ’09 was 1.8 million. So, even were Spicer’s rebutting argument accurate and his positive argument correct, that’s not even half of Obama’s ’09 number. It’s not even the 1 million estimated for Obama’s ’13.
There were three arguments Spicer needed to make here, and he only made two of them. The comparative argument for the superlative (period) needed to be made, too. And no fudging with gates and ground covering would have fixed that one.