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Trump Reportedly Called National Park Service Over Inauguration Crowd Photos

President Trump acknowledges the crowds on the National Mall during his swearing-in Friday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Saul Loeb
President Trump acknowledges the crowds on the National Mall during his swearing-in Friday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The day after his inauguration, President Trump placed a call to the acting head of the National Park Service, Michael Reynolds.

"I can confirm that the call took place. I can't comment on the content of the conversation," National Park Service spokesman Tom Crosson said in an email to NPR.

Trump reportedly was upset over the agency's retweeting of side-by-side photos that unfavorably compared the crowd sizes at his and former President Obama's inaugurations. The retweet was later removed.

"It was a, 'What's going on?' type of thing," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told The New York Times on Thursday night. "Why is the National Park Service tweeting out comparison photos? That was the bigger issue there."

The Washington Post, which first reported the phone call, said Trump ordered Reynolds to provide photos of Inauguration Day crowds on the National Mall on Jan. 20, with the intent of proving the media "had lied in reporting that attendance was no better than average."

As NPR's Jessica Taylor reported on Saturday:

"Press secretary Sean Spicer delivered a fiery broadside against the Fourth Estate from the White House Briefing Room Saturday evening, claiming that reporters had engaged in 'deliberately false reporting' in the past 24 hours since President Trump took the oath of office. And, after berating the press, he walked away without taking any questions.

" 'Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall,' Spicer claimed."

Speaking Saturday at CIA headquarters, Trump referredto his "running war with the media" and called reporters "among the most dishonest human beings on earth."

Talking about the crowd that attended his inauguration, Trump said, "I looked out, it looked like a million, a million and a half people." The National Park Service does not give official crowd estimates.

The president also said of the crowd, "It went all the way back to the Washington Monument."

But as Jessica reported:

"According to aerial photos and multiple NPR reporters on the ground, the crowd was nowhere near the Washington Monument. The mall area near the monument was sparsely populated, and Trump didn't offer any verification for where the 1 million to 1.5 million estimate came from, or for knocking down one news report's estimate that there were only 250,000 people in attendance."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues, climate change and the mid-Atlantic region. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
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