World

Trump ushers in era of 'alternative facts'

White House aide tries to blur line between facts and falsehoods by coining new term

WASHINGTON The photos said it all. The ridership survey on Washington's subway for the day backed them up.

The fact: Fewer people turned up for President Donald Trump's inauguration than they did for Mr Barack Obama's.

The alternative fact: According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the "shameful" media manipulated photographs of the National Mall to make the crowds during the inauguration on Friday look smaller than they really were.

The term "alternative facts" was coined by senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway when she made the Sunday TV show rounds and was asked repeatedly about Mr Spicer's claims that were later debunked as untrue.

NBC's Meet the Press's Chuck Todd asked Ms Conway why Mr Trump had sent "his press secretary to essentially litigate a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size".

He kept asking her about it until she responded: "If we're going to keep referring to our press secretary in those type of terms, I think we're going to have to rethink our relationship here."

When Mr Todd persisted, she replied: "We feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there."

To which Mr Todd retorted: "Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods."

That statement caused a huge response on Twitter, with mocking comments about #alternativefacts trending to the top in the US and to the second-highest spot worldwide, reported AFP.

Merriam-Webster also weighed in on Twitter, posting a definition of the word "fact" and a link to its website.

"Lookups for 'fact' spiked after Ms Kellyanne Conway described false statements as 'alternative facts'," the dictionary publisher said.

"Alternative facts" looks set to enter the lexicon during Mr Trump's term of office as he continues his "running war with the media".

Apart from the mocking on social media, most mainstream media also latched on to the term to separate fibs from facts, including these by the New York Times:

ALTERNATIVE FACT #1

Mr Spicer said the Washington subway system had greater ridership on Mr Trump's inauguration day. "We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit... which actually compares to 317,000... for President Obama's last inaugural," he said.

FACT

The transit system reported 570,557 entries into the rail system on Friday, compared with 782,000 on Inauguration Day in 2013.

ALTERNATIVE FACT #2

Mr Spicer said it was "the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past."

FACT

The Secret Service said security measures were largely unchanged this year. There were also few reports of long lines or delays.

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