Trump overstates inauguration crowd as Women's March appears to draw bigger turnout

There were strong signs across the U.S. that the number of people who attended the Women's March on Washington on Saturday topped those who gathered on Friday to watch U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration.

Inauguration photos 'intentionally framed' by media to make crowd look smaller: press secretary

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to U.S. president Donald Trump, is shown preparing for the Sunday morning political talk show rounds, during which she coined the term 'alternative facts.' (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

There were strong signs across the U.S. that the number of people who attended the Women's March on Washington on Saturday topped those who gathered on Friday to watch U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration. 

But as over a million people around the world protested in solidarity with events in Washington, both the president and his press secretary took aim Saturday at the media for "attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration" and claimed a bigger turnout than the available data suggests. 

The U.S. capital's metro subway stations and train cars were full in many locations on Saturday, while ridership on Friday was well off the numbers from Obama's first inaugural.

Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said on Independence Avenue, "The crowd stretches so far that there's no room left to march."

Protesters walk during the Women's March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Jan. 21. (Getty Images)

Metro tweeted Sunday that 1,001,616 trips were taken on the rail system the day of the Women's March on Washington. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel had said that on Friday, the day of Trump's inauguration, just over 570,000 trips were taken on the rail system.

Saturday's ridership figures were more than eight times a normal Saturday and busier than most weekdays.

No official estimates of the crowd size at the march were immediately available, but the demonstrators appeared to easily exceed the 200,000 organizers had initially expected.

Kevin Donahue, Washington's deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said on Twitter that organizers of the march increased the turnout estimate to over half a million.

On Sunday, Trump and his staff continued their attacks on the media, with adviser Kellyanne Conway saying it was unfair for the media to compare the crowds to President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. She also defended the press secretary's comments, saying Sean Spicer presented "alternative facts."

The president weighed in about the figures and the protests through his Twitter account. First, he asked "why didn't these people vote," but an hour later said he "recognized the rights of people to express their views."

Attempts to minimize inauguration 'shameful'

During a speech at CIA headquarters on Saturday, Trump quickly shifted from praise for the CIA to criticism of media coverage of inauguration day — an unscripted address that overstated the size of the crowd that gathered on the National Mall as he took the oath of office.

Trump said throngs "went all the way back to the Washington monument," despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.

A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in U.S. President Donald Trump at 12:01pm, left, on Jan. 20, 2017, and former president Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009. (Reuters)

Trump's press secretary said, without evidence, in a statement released Saturday, that the media intentionally framed pictures and video to make the event look smaller.

"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's statement read.

Trump's press secretary challenges 'inaccurate numbers' at inauguration

7 years ago
Duration 1:19
'These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong,' says White House press secretary Sean Spicer

"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong."

Trump said the inauguration crowd looked to be about 1.5 million people. The National Park Service doesn't provide an official estimate, but such a figure is highly dubious. Other events that filled more of the Mall have not drawn a crowd of that size.

Spicer also stated: "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe."

It is not known how many people watched the ceremony on television around the globe, but in the U.S., Nielsen estimates 31 million viewers watched TV coverage.

The 2009 inauguration of Obama, who became the nation's first black president that year, was watched by nearly 38 million viewers, the second-highest number since Nielsen began compiling such figures with Richard Nixon's 1969 oath of office.

Only Reagan drew a bigger U.S. TV inauguration audience, with nearly 42 million viewers tuning in to see the California Republican sworn in for his first term in 1981. 

Trump's total was greater than both swearings-in of Democrat Bill Clinton — 29.7 million and 21.6 million — and the second inauguration of Obama, who drew an average audience of over 20.5 million in 2013, Nielsen said.

Trump used Twitter to boast about the ratings his inauguration received. 

Over 1 million protested Trump worldwide

In a global exclamation of defiance and solidarity on Saturday, more than a million people had rallied at women's marches in the Washington, D.C., and cities around the world. The more than 600 "sister marches" around the world were held in conjunction with the main Women's March on Washington.

Many of the women came wearing pink, pointy-eared "pussyhats" to mock the new president. Plenty of men joined in, too, contributing to surprising numbers everywhere from New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, to Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, London, Prague and Sydney.

A total of 30 marches were held in Canada, with thousands participating in a number of cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa.

Women's marches around the world

7 years ago
Duration 1:11
Women gather in solidarity against President Trump

Chicago trek cancelled due to big turnout

So many people turned out for the Women's March in Chicago that organizers cancelled their plans to march through the city's downtown.

Instead, they extended the rally on the city's lakefront.

Organizers said far more people than they initially expected gathered at the demonstration in Grant Park along Lake Michigan and overflow areas had to be used.

With files from CBC News and Reuters