The White House vowed on Sunday to fight the news media "tooth and nail" over what officials see as unfair attacks on President Donald Trump, setting a tone that could ratchet up a traditionally adversarial relationship to a new level of rancor.
A day after the Republican president used his first visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday to accuse the media of underestimating the crowds at his inauguration, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus expressed indignation at the reports and referred to them as "attacks."
"The point is not the crowd size. The point is the attacks and the attempt to delegitimize this president in one day. And we're not going to sit around and take it," Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday."
Priebus complained about a press pool report that said the bust of Martin Luther King Jr had been removed from the Oval Office. The report on Friday night was quickly corrected but Trump called out the reporter by name at the Central Intelligence Agency on Saturday, as did spokesman Sean Spicer later in the day.
"We're going to fight back tooth and nail every day and twice on Sunday," Priebus said.
The chief of staff also repeated Spicer's accusations that the media manipulated photographs of the National Mall to show smaller crowds at Friday's inauguration.
Aerial photographs showed the crowds for Trump's inauguration were smaller than in 2009, when Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, was sworn in.
The unexpectedly high turnout for Saturday's Woman's March on Washington outpaced the inauguration turnout. The Washington subway system reported 275,000 rides of as of 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) on Saturday.
The subway system said 193,000 users had entered the system by 11 a.m. on Friday, compared with 513,000 at that time during Obama's 2009 inauguration.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Jeffrey Benkoe)
Below is an earlier reported version from Reuters:
The White House on Saturday accused the media of framing photographs to understate the crowd that attended Donald Trump's inauguration, a new jab in a long-running fight between the new president and the news organizations who cover him.]
In an unusual and fiery statement on Saturday night, White House spokesman Sean Spicer lashed out about tweeted photographs that showed large, empty spaces on the National Mall during the ceremony on Friday.
"This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe," Spicer said in a brief statement. "These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm about the inauguration are shameful and wrong."
Washington's city government estimated 1.8 million people attended President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, making it the largest gathering ever on the Mall.
Aerial photographs showed that the crowds for Trump's inauguration were smaller than in 2009.
Spicer's rebuke followed a larger-than-expected turnout for women's marches protesting Trump across the United States on Saturday, including at the flagship event in Washington, where a crowd of hundreds of thousands clogged the streets and appeared to be larger than those who came for Trump's inauguration.
Spicer, who did not take questions from reporters, said spaces for 720,000 people were full when Trump took his oath.
He also said the National Park Service does not put out official crowd counts. "No one had numbers."
Washington's Metro subway system said 193,000 users had entered the system by 11 a.m. on Friday, compared with 513,000 at that time during Obama's 2009 inauguration.
On Saturday, Metro reported ridership of 275,000 at 11 a.m. as it struggled to handle the crowd converging on downtown Washington for the protest march.
Trump has long used the media as a foil during his unconventional climb to the White House. On Saturday, he blamed the media for making up his feud with the CIA over its investigation into Russian hacking.
Spicer also criticized a reporter who made an error in a pool report during a brief ceremony in the Oval Office on Friday. Earlier, Trump called out the reporter by name at the CIA headquarters.
"There's been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump accountable, and I'm here to tell you it goes two ways. We're going to hold the press accountable as well," Spicer said.
(By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and Andy Sullivan; Edited by Kieran Murray and Mary Milliken)