The rocky relationship between President Trump and the media has only grown worse in the few short days since the inauguration — with accusations of false news reports, inflated crowd estimates and unnecessarily negative coverage fueling mutual distrust between the Fourth Estate and the White House.
Any hopes of a honeymoon — or even a momentary truce — between the two sides were dashed even before they could be uttered.
White House counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said the media’s constant focus on the crowd size at Friday’s inauguration — rather than the content of Mr. Trump’s address — is “a symbol for the unfair and incomplete treatment that this president often receives.”
Pressed on whether Mr. Trump and his aides had overstated the number of those attending his inaugural festivities Friday, she said the line of questioning was ironic since the press routinely dismissed large crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies during the presidential campaign.
“I’m really glad that NBC News and Chuck Todd all of a sudden are so thrilled to cover crowd control, because we were mocked daily for talking about the significance of our historic rallies to Wisconsin, to Pennsylvania, to Florida, to North Carolina,” Ms. Conway said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And on great days we were ignored, and on most days we were mocked.”
In a separate interview on Sunday, ABC host George Stephanopoulos said it’s Mr. Trump and his aides who keep bringing up the size of the crowd, including during Mr. Trump’s ostensible tribute to the CIA on a visit to Langley Saturday.
“We spent 11 hours on the air on Friday during the inauguration; barely talked about the crowd size, if we brought it up at all,” Mr. Stephanopoulos said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We spent time talking to people in the crowds. The question is, why does the president choose to talk about that at the CIA? Why does he send his press secretary out to talk about it in his first White House briefing and say things that aren’t true?”
But Ms. Conway said the media have no right to claim the moral high ground, and a good White House-press relationship was “a two-way street.”
She pointed to the inaccurate pool report over the weekend claiming a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the White House. The reporter later had to issue a correction, claiming she had not seen the bust when she was in the Oval Office watching Mr. Trump sign his first executive orders.
Separately, new White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus took issue with the media’s coverage of Mr. Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday.
He described the speech to several hundred cheering agents as a “lovefest.” But Mr. Priebus complained that the media chose to cover the event negatively after Democrats criticized Mr. Trump for delivering his speech in front of the Memorial Wall, where 117 stars are hung to represent the men and women who have given their lives in the line of service.
Mr. Priebus said the negative coverage was ironic since Mr. Trump’s primary purpose in visiting the CIA was to warn against media reports which the new president claimed exaggerated his rift with the intelligence community.
“And the reason that he went there first was to tell them, ‘I don’t want you to believe the media that I don’t respect you all as intelligence officers,’” Mr. Priebus said.
Ms. Conway denied that press secretary Sean Spicer had been engaged in falsehoods when he scolded the press in a terse Saturday afternoon briefing over the size of Mr. Trump’s inauguration crowd and other matters.
“You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to that,” she told Mr. Todd.