Two weeks into his presidency, The New York Times ran an article detailing how President Donald J. Trump was wandering the halls of the White House in his bathrobe, looking for the light switches. The paper, “in its efforts to cover a presidency that it openly saw as aberrant, had added to its White House beat something of a new form of coverage,” author Michael Wolff notes in Fire and Fury. So does this, as President Trump complains, make him the most unjustly treated President in history?
Each American President has had their own unique relationship to the media. Some used it to their advantage, others spent their terms butting heads. A respect for the highest office in the land has traditionally encouraged restraint in reporting gossip or paparazzi-style intrusion. But from the very earliest days of America’s founding, that line has often been crossed.
1. Thomas Jefferson
America’s third president was decidedly pro-press, unless the press was covering him. During his tenure as the U.S. minister to France he wrote, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” It’s writings like these that have enshrined Jefferson as a champion of the free press. However, this assessment isn’t the whole story.
During his presidency he became critical of what he saw as the partisan nature of the press and began airing his grievances in personal letters stating, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” For some context, newspapers of the early 19th century in the U.S. frequently printed pieces with overt bias and plagued politicians with personal attacks.
During Jefferson’s campaign against John Adams, both men used the press to levy insults at each other. Jefferson-allied papers accused President Adams of being a hermaphrodite and a hypocrite, while Adams’ camp attacked Jefferson’s racial heritage, accusing him of being “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father” as well as an atheist and libertine. But though Jefferson’s relationship with the press was complicated, he was still a staunch advocate for press freedom, stating “the only security of all is in a free press.”
2. Theodore Roosevelt
Political spin is a part of modern day life, and we have Theodore Roosevelt to thank for it. Roosevelt understood he could use the power of the press to communicate and engage with the American people in a way that Presidents before him hadn’t. He organized publicity stunts, once going to the bottom of the Long Island Sound in a submarine to show his support for the warships. He toured the country promoting legislation, upgraded the White House’s pressroom and used it for informal news conferences, and hired government press officers.
One of Roosevelt’s most notable press campaigns focused on reforming the meat industry after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Realizing the publicity surrounding the book could help his plans to push the Pure Food and Drug Bill through Congress, he dispatched inspectors to confirm Sinclair’s accounts of horrid, unsanitary conditions in the meat industry.
Though he’d later call Sinclair and other journalists like him “muckrakers,” Roosevelt used the press to his advantage, giving reporters information on Sunday and then basing his decisions on how the public reacted to the Monday papers. So-called muckraker Lincoln Steffens maintained that congressmen went along with Roosevelt because he was “the leader of public opinion” and they were afraid of facing retribution if they defied him.
3. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson is perhaps best known for helming the U.S. through the Great War and being an integral part of the peace process, earning him a Nobel Prize for his efforts. What may be less known is that during the U.S.’s involvement in World War I, Wilson curtailed freedom of the press. He did this through a dual strategy of censorship and propaganda.
Wilson wanted “authority to exercise censorship over the Press to the extent that that censorship…is absolutely necessary to the public safety.” However, the Senate and House of Representatives didn’t share that opinion. Thanks to the efforts of three Republican senators, the censorship provisions Wilson wanted were never enacted.
After Congress had declared war in 1917, Wilson quickly issued an executive order creating the Committee on Public Information. The agency would create propaganda for newspapers and newsreels that was aimed at draftees and the public, and intended to explain the country’s involvement in the war and sway neutrality advocates. The agency later established its own pro-war newspaper. One of the most iconic images the CPI created was that of Uncle Sam.
4. Harry S. Truman
President Truman’s most famous press moment happened in the moments after he was elected to office, when newspapers were emblazoned with the erroneous headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” In a moment eerily similar to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, 50 political experts polled by Newsweek before the election had unanimously concluded: “ Dewey couldn’t lose.”
The headline encapsulated Truman’s strained relationship with the media, which had published unflattering photographs and false allegations about his political backing during the campaign. Perhaps this is why, though Truman publicly supported journalism, he wasn’t too fond of newspaper publishers. In a 1955 letter, Truman famously wrote: “Presidents and the members of their Cabinets and their staff members have been slandered and misrepresented since George Washington…when the press is friendly to an administration the opposition has been lied about and treated to the excrescence [sic] of paid prostitutes of the mind.”
5. Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon’s experience with the press during his campaign against JFK, mainly his perceived loss in their televised 1960 debate, made him acutely aware of the media’s power. As a result, he entered office determined to control his media coverage. He created the White House Office of Communications, and hired a strategist to help him improve his television appearances. That strategist? Future Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. However, not all of this work helped assuage Nixon’s fears that the press was against him.
Driven by paranoia—and the embarrassing revelations of his role in the Watergate scandal—Nixon compiled a list of press “enemies” and had them audited. His surrogates even mounted a campaign to yank the license of a television station owned by the Washington Post, which broke the Watergate scandal and published parts of the Pentagon Papers (the paper’s tense relationship with Nixon White House was most recently chronicled in the 2016 film, The Post). The Watergate scandal led Nixon to be the first president to resign in the U.S.’s history.
6. Bill Clinton
Throughout Clinton’s campaign and subsequent presidency, the media doggedly reported stories about his former business dealings and alleged sexual transgressions. But when news broke that not only was the President having a relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but that he was being investigated by the independent counsel for it, a media storm ensued. Clinton strenuously denied the accusations for months before finally confessing in August of 1998. Following that, perjury charges were filed and a special prosecutor appointed, in a series of events that came to define the Clinton presidency.
Clinton’s conduct came under renewed scrutiny due to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, when her opponent Donald Trump brought it up to push back on similar allegations about his own treatment of women. However, when asked to compare his treatment by the press during his campaign and in 2016, Bill Clinton stated he thought the press was ”fairer” in 1992.
7. Donald Trump
Donald Trump has struck back repeatedly on what he deems “fake news”—generally stories that portray his presidency in an unfavorable light or that discuss the ongoing investigation into whether Russia influenced the 2016 election—both in speeches and on his preferred method of communication, Twitter. Like Nixon, he has threatened the television licenses of stations that run stories he does not like: When NBC reported on Trump’s desire to increase the U.S.’s nuclear-weapons stockpile, he reacted by saying the network should have its license revoked.
In addition, Trump has threatened to enact much stricter libel laws in response to critical coverage, which many worry would curtail the First Amendment. His relationship with the media plays out in a contentious but mutually beneficial way, with both sides using the other for publicity and reach. As much as he claims to despise the mainstream media, Trump uses it often to further his agenda, while newspapers like the The New York Times have gained subscribers after being repeatedly attacked by President Trump.
Ron Reagan Interview: His New Book My Father at 100, Feud with Michael
Under attack from his half-brother Michael, the rebel son tells Lloyd Grove why he’s standing by his memories of President Reagan’s White House days in his new book, My Father at 100.
Ron Reagan Jr. promotes his new book 'My Father at 100' at Bookends Bookstore on January 18, 2011 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. (Photo: Theo Wargo / Getty Images),Theo Wargo
Those battling Reagans are at it again.
Ever since Ron Reagan’s revelation, in his new memoir My Father at 100, that America’s 40th president might have had incipient Alzheimer’s disease in the White House, his older brother Michael has been waging jihad against him.
“I haven’t talked to Mike in a long time—I should write him a thank-you note for helping me sell my book,” the younger Reagan tells me.
He’s referring to the recent full-frontal Twitter attack by the 65-year-old adopted son of Ronald Reagan and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman—the latest episode in a long-running soap opera of first-family dysfunction, played out in public.
“My brother seems to want [to] sell out his father to sell books. my father did not suffer from Alzheimers in the 80s,” the elder Reagan tweeted. “Ron, my brother, was an embarrassment to my father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother,” he added later on. Still later, he raged: “The issue here is Did our Father have Alzheimers when he was President. He did not.” Then Mike Reagan exhorted his 2,500-odd Twitter followers: “Pray for my brother.”
Ron, who is 52, says he was blissfully ignorant of Mike’s broadsides until he heard about them from Nancy Reagan, his 89-year-old mom (also mother to older sister Patti Davis, who pointedly distances herself from the Reagan legacy by using her mom’s maiden name).
“I didn’t watch any TV over the weekend, so I was behind on all this Mike tweeting stuff,” says Ron, himself a non-tweeter. “So I called to speak to her and she was concerned. ‘Are you all right?’ And I was kinda like, ‘Yeah. Why?’ And she said, ‘Mike just said these awful, mean things.’ ‘What did he say?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m not even going to tell you.’”
Ron adds: “When I realized what was going on, I called her back and said, ‘They’re going to ask me what you think about the book. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so you gotta tell me what I should say.’ “
The former first lady’s review, according to her son: “I’ve read it, I loved it, it made me cry, and I’m very proud of you.”
“I only noticed things occasionally that only someone intimately familiar would know. I’ve likened it to watching TV and the picture momentarily goes slightly out of focus and then snaps back.”
Mrs. Reagan, who turns 90 in July, “is actually doing pretty well,” Ron reports. “She’s sharp as a tack. She does have a little trouble walking now, and her eyesight isn’t so good, and so she’s resigned herself to the walker—and she’s getting pretty good with that.”
As for Patti, 58, a sometime actress and novelist, and the so-called black sheep of the Reagan brood, “I have not spoken to Patti lately,” Ron says. “I think she’s trying to write a novel or something, but I’m not quite sure. She doesn’t seem to be of a mind to speak to me. You know, I don’t like to have these intrafamilial squabbles. I don’t think it’s such a great idea—it’s kind of unseemly.” (Maureen Reagan, Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan’s biological daughter, who occasionally served as conciliator in the family feuds, died of cancer in 2001.)
Ron adds: “People talk about this feud between Mike and me. It’s kind of a one-sided feud. I have no interest in it. He’s the one that started it, and he seems to be keeping it going.” (Indeed, on Thursday, after Ron had clarified but didn’t back away from what he wrote in his book about Alzheimer’s, Mike addressed the controversy again, tweeting: “I accept my brothers explantion for his getting the facts wrong and appologize for my harshness.” Lamentably, Mike is diverting attention from his own book, The New Reagan Revolution, a co-authored volume that Ron witheringly describes as “something about how my father’s principles would solve all the world’s problems.”)
Predictably, Mike’s reaction to Ron’s speculation about President Reagan—who announced his diagnosis in a heartbreaking open letter in 1994 and died 10 years later, but would have turned 100 on Feb. 6—is the news nugget that has overwhelmed Ron’s book tour. Given President Reagan’s enduring status as the deity at the center of the Republican cosmos, everyone from pundit/acolyte George Will to media doyenne Barbara Walters has felt compelled to enter the theological debate.
“Ron Reagan is saying the silliest things about Reagan and Alzheimer’s,” Will told my colleague Samuel P. Jacobs this week. “My wife [Mari Maseng Will] was Reagan’s communications director. She saw an awful lot more of President Reagan during his second term than he did. She thinks it’s rubbish, and so do I.”
Weighing in on The View, Walters said: “I probably saw more of President Reagan in those years than either of his sons. He was not really close to them. And I did interview after interview. I didn’t see any signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s or whatever until after he left office.”
Ron—whose book makes abundantly clear that he was close to, if occasionally at odds with, his sometimes distant father—mildly objects to what he calls Walters’ “presumption.”
But he responds: “I’m gratified to hear people saying that they didn’t see any signs of dementia when he was in office, too. I didn’t see that either. I only noticed things occasionally that only someone intimately familiar would know. I’ve likened it to watching TV and the picture momentarily goes slightly out of focus and then snaps back. You did wonder what that was, but I can’t say those were signs of Alzheimer’s. He was a man in his mid-70s. You’re slowing down in various ways. He was losing his hearing. He’d been shot and nearly killed. That’ll stop you a little bit.”
He points out that the president himself wrote in his private diary, while still in office, about his disquiet over his inability to recall the names of long-familiar California canyons as he flew over them. “I don’t pretend to say he was thinking about Alzheimer’s,” Ron says. “I don’t know what he was thinking. But that’s what he wrote in his journal.”
Ironically, the flap accounts for only a few paragraphs in a 228-page narrative that is, by turns, informative, moving, insightful, and painfully honest—and, it has to be said, surprisingly well-written. “I didn’t think I knew that many words,” Ron jokes. Among the memorable scenes: an account of how Ron and his dad, then governor of California, almost came to blows over his impersonation of a rebellious teenager and the terrible day in March 1981, two months into Reagan’s first term, that the deranged John Hinckley attempted to impress Jodie Foster.
When I suggest that his near-fisticuffs with his father might have been his bid for the intimacy their relationship otherwise lacked, Ron protests, “That might be a little too Freudian. I’m not sure about that.”
Growing up Reagan “is a mixed bag, I suppose,” Ron says. “But I’ve never really known anything else. My father was a public figure all my life, and so the presidency was an extension of that. I guess you get used to it, though you can stand back occasionally and think, ‘Boy, this is really weird!’ “
Did the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Being a fly on the wall at his father’s Geneva summit with Mikhail Gorbachev “would certainly be on the advantage side—those experiences are priceless,” says Ron, who determinedly carved out an independent identity from an early age, announcing that he was an atheist at 12 years old, dropping out of Yale to become a professional dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, eloping with Doria, a clinical psychologist and his wife of 30 years, and later flaunting his left-leaning politics on radio and television.
“Having your father shot on national television—that would be on the downside,” Ron notes dryly. “But that’s nothing new in American history. We’re a violent country. We can point fingers at Sarah Palin—and that can be fun—but it’s a deeper, broader problem. This is an America that doesn’t take mental health seriously, and is awash in guns and obsessed with violence.”
Ron, who endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008 and over the past two years has shared the disappointment of many liberals, says “I feel a lot better now than I did three months ago, right after the tax-cut compromise. I guess I should keep in mind that my own father did a lot of compromising himself to get what he wanted. And Obama seems to have found his stride. I thought his speech in Tucson was powerful—and the contrast to Sarah Palin couldn’t have been more stark. No surprise there. I think she’s out of the running at this point.”
What’s next for Ron Reagan? He might return to radio—something he hasn’t done since last year when Air America (which carried his Seattle-based program) went out of business—and he’d like to try his hand at writing another book, preferably on a non-Reagan topic.
“I would definitely not want to do another family memoir,” he says with a laugh. “I suppose I can do My Brother at 65. It would be a shorter book.”
Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.
13. PGA Tour vs. PGA of America
This is very much a “back in the day” type feud—the lingering embers of the fight have mostly burned out—but how can you not include a foundational rift in American golf? This is when one organization split into two—the PGA Tour as the competition entity, the PGA of America as the grassroots conduit to the game. Most identify the start date of the PGA Tour as 1968, when several players, including Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, finally got sufficiently fed up with the uneven distribution of the profits of professional golf. They demanded a bigger share for themselves, and eventually broke off into what would soon become the PGA Tour. In fact, smaller efforts at this outcome had been made for decades, and it was probably a historical inevitability. Still, it utterly altered the landscape of professional golf and has plenty of echoes in the modern game.
2. American Idol
With two musical divas working together it was possibly inevitable there would be some fireworks.
So Mariah Carey saying she didn't exactly enjoy her time as a judge on 2012's American Idol while working with Nicki Minaj may not be a total surprise.
"Ugh. It was the most abusive experience," the singer said on a press tour in 2016.
There were many reports of on-set fighting and increasingly heated exchanges between the two stars, with producers forced to stop auditions at one point.
Footage of Minaj yelling at "her highness" Mariah emerged in the media, and the rapper claimed Carey didn't want another female star on the talent show "coming to steal her shine".
The rage spilled out onto social media and former US President Obama was even questioned about it on Miami radio station Y100's The Yo Show.
After just one series, both Carey and Minaj abandoned ship, with Mariah later saying in a radio interview she had "hated" every minute and it was like "working in hell with Satan".
Presidential Feuds With the Media Are Nothing New - HISTORY
Monday, June 14, is flag day. These days, that makes me cringe because we have turned the flag and our national anthem into lightning rods of controversy.
Years ago, Congress decided to pass a law making burning the flag illegal. This was at a time when people would stand in the public square and burn a flag. Most times, these people were citizens of the U.S.
The courts ruled that burning the flag was a protected form of free speech.
On three occasions, my daddy took a few Nazi bullets (real Nazis, not some fringe outfit from this country), to make sure we could fly the stars and stripes over America. A few wrong turns in the war, and we could have been flying some other banner on our flagpoles.
Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West
This epic feud has been going strong ever since Kanye West infamously interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at MTV's Video Music Awards in 2009. The two publicly made up the following year and West even opened up about doing new music with Swift in 2015.
"She wants to get in the studio and we're definitely going to go in," West told Ryan Seacrest. "I don't have an elitism about music, I don't discriminate."
But their music plans quickly fell through after West released his song "Famous" in 2016. West rapped, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b---h famous."
Swift was very vocal about her dislike of the lyrics at the 2016 American Music Awards, where she accused West of undermining her success. Months later, West's wife, Kim Kardashian West, put a rest to the he-said-she-said battle and posted several videos of Swift and West discussing the song where it appears as if she approved of the track's message.
French president's 'Mr. Normal' image rocked in brewing family feud
PARIS - A feud involving the French president's live-in girlfriend, his former partner and his eldest son may have tarnished the new leader's carefully cultivated image as "Mr. Normal" — credited with helping him win the spring election among a populace weary of his flashy predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Francois Hollande agreed to take a question about the family feud that has riveted the media during a television interview Saturday — a sign that in the Twitter era, even French leaders can't keep their private lives private.
Mid-way through the nationally televised interview on tradition-steeped Bastille Day, the reporters asked for his reaction to "tweetgate" as the feud is known. It began with a tweet sent out by his companion Valerie Trierweiler during last month's legislative elections. The tweet expressed support for the political opponent of his ex-partner Segolene Royal, the mother of the president's four children, who was defeated in her bid for a parliamentary seat.
Hollande may have agreed to take the question, but he quickly shut it down, saying that he intended to keep his public and private lives separate — and that he had asked those close to him to do the same.
But it may be too late to put the genie back in the bottle, since the tweet has set the French political establishment aflame, and turned the president's image on its head.
Widely criticized as a vindictive move, the tweet went viral and dominated news shows.
"He campaigned for a clean break with Sarkozy, but it was a big mistake for Valerie, as it put his private life into public view," political communications expert Arnaud Mercier said in a telephone interview.
According to behind the scenes reports in the media, both Hollande and his children were furious, but all sides moved into a damage control operation and kept the feud under wraps.
Trierweiler has since kept a low profile. She was notably absent when Hollande visited with Queen Elizabeth II this week in London.
The Twitter account of Hollande's eldest son Thomas reads discreetly: "I don't plan on tweeting for the moment."
A low profile was maintained until this week when the 27-year-old Thomas broke his silence, speaking out against his father's companion's actions to the newsweekly Le Point, published on Wednesday
"I knew that something could come from (Valerie) one day, but not such a big knock. It's mind blowing," he was quoted as saying.
"It upset me for my father. He really hates it when his private life is spoken about," he said. Then he added what many were already thinking: "It destroyed the "Normal" image that he'd built up."
The Elysee tried to defuse the comments, saying on Friday that they were made during a "personal interview." Thomas Hollande has said some comments were taken out of context.
Despite those efforts to water down the remarks, "tweetgate" still dominates French media. Son Thomas' remarks are thought to have pushed his father into speaking out.
Since the Le Point article, Trierweiler has been spotted by Hollande's side in a clear show of unity. French media reported that Hollande allowed diners to take photographs during an intimate dinner with her at a swish Paris restaurant on Wednesday night. Trierweiler is also set to accompany him in engagements this weekend and next week.
On Saturday, she was in the front row of a grandstand set up to watch the Bastille Day military parade, though, like the companions of other French dignitaries, she did not sit next to her partner.
"This is really serious for him now. That's why he's going on TV," Mercier said.
Hollande answered the reporters' questions in Saturday's interview with his trademark good nature, but it was clear he didn't want to dwell.
"I am for a clear distinction between public life and private life and so I consider that private affairs should be sorted out in private," he said in the interview aired by broadcasters TF1 and France-2.
Sarkozy lost May's presidential election in large part because French voters grew tired of his very public private life, political pundits have said.
Conversely, a clear strength of Hollande, slightly portly and very discreet, was his Mr. Normal image.
Voters thought a Hollande presidency would spell the end of the Elysee family soap opera that saw Sarkozy divorce and take a new wife, haute-couture model turned singer, Carla Bruni, while president.
Commentators are now saying that history is repeating itself.
"He only beat Sarkozy by a small percentage, (owing to) his non-bling, private image . Now he seems no different than Sarkozy, caught between two women," said Mercier.
The colorful amorous exploits of French leaders is nothing new.
For instance, Francois Mitterrand, French president from 1981 to 1995, had a secret daughter with a mistress.
But the French media, who have made it a point of honour to be protective of politicians' private lives, kept Mitterrand's exploits out of the papers.
In today's world, however, politicians' every public move is now under the scrutiny of smart phones and Twitter, and maintaining privacy is harder than ever — even in France.
"It's for sure we're in an era where the private life of public people is more and more exposed with new media," said Diane-Monique Adjanonhoun, a political marketing strategist.
For Adjanonhoun, "tweetgate" signals the end of the era of politician's privacy.
"Presidents now are breaking with Mitterrand's time. We used to be a private country. But now, whether conscious or unconscious, France is no exception."
All the terrible things Trump and Ted Cruz said about each other before the president decided he was 𧯪utiful Ted'
The political feud between President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during the 2016 election was one of the dirtiest in recent memory.
Trump and Cruz, who dropped out of the GOP primary in May 2016, attacked each other's wives, citizenship, and integrity. They even threatened to sue, accusing each other of lying and cheating for various reasons.
After Trump won the party's nomination, Cruz refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention.
Cruz finally came around to make that endorsement in September 2016, and the two have worked together on Republican legislation since Trump took office.
By October 22, 2018, Trump even decided that Cruz was no longer "lyin' Ted" — his notorious nickname for the senator during the campaign — and was now "beautiful Ted." The president made the announcement ahead of a campaign rally he hosted in Texas to support Cruz's tough reelection bid.
Here are 40 of the most memorable attacks the two threw at each other during the 2016 presidential campaign:
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Jenny McCarthy vs. Barbara Walters
In an excerpt from Ladies Who Punch, McCarthy characterized her 2013-2014 stint on the show as "miserable."
"You know the movie Mommie Dearest? I remember as a child watching that movie and going, 'Holy cow!' " McCarthy said of the biographical drama about Joan Crawford's allegedly abusive relationship with her adopted daughter, Christina Crawford. "I've never seen a woman yell like that before until I worked with [The View creator] Barbara Walters," she added.
McCarthy went on to recall moments Walters would allegedly make her change clothes if she didn't like an outfit or felt it didn't complement hers. She also steered McCarthy's role on the show away from pop culture and toward politics, which the MTV alumna wasn't quite comfortable with.
Additionally, McCarthy spoke of a moment from her 2007 appearance on the show, when she spoke about her beliefs surrounding vaccines and her son's autism diagnosis.
"I walked into her dressing room and she blew up at me," McCarthy said. "She was screaming, 'How dare you say this! That autism can be cured?' My knees were shaking. I remember my whole body was shaking."
Trump’s Inauguration vs. Obama’s: Comparing the Crowds
Estimates put the crowd gathered for President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration at far less than President Obama’s in 2009.
“These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,” Mr. Spicer said. He also admonished a journalist for erroneously reporting on Friday that Mr. Trump had removed a bust of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office, calling the mistake — which was corrected quickly — “egregious.”
And he incorrectly claimed that ridership on Washington’s subway system was higher than on Inauguration Day in 2013. In reality, there were 782,000 riders that year, compared with 571,000 riders this year, according to figures from the Washington-area transit authority.
Mr. Spicer also said that security measures had been extended farther down the National Mall this year, preventing “hundreds of thousands of people” from viewing the ceremony. But the Secret Service said the measures were largely unchanged this year, and there were few reports of long lines or delays.
Commentary about the size of his inauguration crowd made Mr. Trump increasingly angry on Friday, according to several people familiar with his thinking.
On Saturday, Mr. Trump told his advisers that he wanted to push back hard on “dishonest media” coverage — mostly referring to a Twitter post from a New York Times reporter showing side-by-side frames of Mr. Trump’s crowd and Mr. Obama’s in 2009. But most of Mr. Trump’s advisers urged him to focus on the responsibilities of his office during his first full day as president.
However, in his remarks at the C.I.A., he wandered off topic several times, at various points telling the crowd he felt no older than 39 (he is 70) reassuring anyone who questioned his intelligence by saying, “I’m, like, a smart person” and musing out loud about how many intelligence workers backed his candidacy.Image
“Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re all on the same wavelength, folks.”
But most of his remarks were devoted to attacking the news media. And Mr. Spicer picked up the theme later in the day in the White House briefing room. But his appearance, according to the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s thinking, went too far, in the president’s opinion.
Mr. Trump’s appearance at the C.I.A. touched off a fierce reaction from some current and former intelligence officials.
Nick Shapiro, who served as chief of staff to John O. Brennan, who resigned Friday as the C.I.A. director, said Mr. Brennan “is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of C.I.A.’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes.
“Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself,” Mr. Shapiro added.
“I was heartened that the president gave a speech at C.I.A.,” said Michael V. Hayden, a former director of the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency. “It would have been even better if more of it had been about C.I.A.”
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that he had had high hopes for Mr. Trump’s visit as a step to begin healing the relationship between the president and the intelligence community, but that Mr. Trump’s meandering speech had dashed them.
“While standing in front of the stars representing C.I.A. personnel who lost their lives in the service of their country — hallowed ground — Trump gave little more than a perfunctory acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice,” Mr. Schiff said. “He will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world.”
Mr. Trump said nothing during the visit about how he had mocked the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” He did not mention his apparent willingness to believe Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who is widely detested at the C.I.A., over his own intelligence agencies.
He also did not say whether he would start receiving the daily intelligence briefs that are prepared for the president. The agency sees the president as its main audience, and his dismissal of the need for daily briefings from the intelligence community has raised concerns about morale among people who believe their work will not be respected at the White House.
Since the election, hopes at the C.I.A. that the new administration would bring an infusion of energy and ideas have given way to trepidation about what Mr. Trump and his loyalists have planned. But the nomination of Mike Pompeo, a former Army infantry officer who is well versed in issues facing the intelligence community, to lead the C.I.A. has been received positively at the agency.
“He has left the strong impression that he doesn’t trust the intelligence community and that he doesn’t have tremendous regard for their work,” Mark M. Lowenthal, a retired C.I.A. analyst, said of Mr. Trump. “The obvious thing to do is to counter that by saying, ‘I value you. I look forward to working with you.’”
“He called them Nazis,” Mr. Lowenthal added, referring to Mr. Trump’s characterization of the intelligence community. Mr. Lowenthal said Saturday’s visit should have been “a stroking expedition.”