Jan. 23, 2017
In their false claims about the size of the crowd at the inauguration on Friday, and in the introduction to common parlance of the term “alternative facts”, senior aides to Donald Trump managed to achieve the unthinkable: getting rightwing news sites to disagree with the president.
Donald Trump's team defends 'alternative facts' after widespread protests
The Blaze, the Daily Caller and Fox News – generally staunch supporters – all called out Trump for his statement that “a million, million and a half people” attended his inauguration in Washington DC.
It was left to Breitbart News – whose former executive chair Steve Bannon is a senior adviser to Trump and which employs Julia Hahn, a writer linked this weekend to a White House post of her own – to defend the president. The conservative news site insisted that “it looked like the entire mall was full” on Friday and described “alternative facts” as “a harmless, and accurate, term in a legal setting”.
Rightwing news sites have stuck by Trump as he repeatedly lied on everything from poll numbers to his support for the Iraq war. But his lie about the number of people who attended his swearing-in – which was contradicted by photographs circulated on Friday and District of Columbia transit data – prompted some such outlets to call out the president.
The Blaze, founded by the rightwing commentator Glenn Beck, contradicted Spicer’s claim that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration” by posting a photograph comparing Trump’s crowd with that of President Obama in 2009.
The Daily Caller did the same, while Fox News wrote that “there is little question that Obama’s 2009 inauguration drew a much bigger in-person crowd than Trump’s ceremonies”.
Breitbart also provided the most vigorous defense of the term “alternative facts”. Alternative facts, according to Breitbart, is “a harmless, and accurate, term in a legal setting, where each side of a dispute will lay out its own version of the facts for the court to decide”.
A search of several online legal dictionaries, however, did not yield any results for the term.
Even the rightwing conspiracy sites Infowars and the Gateway Pundit did not defend Trump’s untruths, instead choosing not to cover the debacle at all.
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On Thursday, the founder of Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, reportedly claimed the site had been granted a White House press credential.
Given the site’s track record, a White House press credential for Gateway Pundit would set a dangerous precedent. It has published reports speculating that Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and falsely claimed that anti-Trump protests have been funded by George Soros.