Now they tell us. Turns out that President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t lie, it just has different versions of the truth. Kellyanne Conway, the omnipresent senior aide to the president, said Sunday that the White House press secretary wasn’t lying when he lied about crowd numbers at the inauguration, he was merely presenting “alternative facts.” Even though Sean Spicer said something that was evidently false by claiming Trump enjoyed “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period,” that is not a lie.
The phrase that will go down in history because with two simple words, Conway perfectly illustrated how the Trump administration has a tortured relationship with the truth. Conway uttered the words that she’s surely already regretting as NBC’s Chuck Todd repeatedly questioned why Trump would ask “the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood?” Conway said Todd was being too extremist about the truth:
Kellyanne Conway: Don't be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. What you’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains..
Chuck Todd: Wait a minute. Alternative facts?
Conway: … That there’s…
Todd: Alternative facts? Four of the five facts he uttered, the one thing he got right …
Conway: … Hey, Chuck, why, hey Chuck …
Todd: … was Zeke Miller. Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.
Conway then went on to try to pivot to other issues, but as Todd insisted on talking about Spicer’s lies (although he preferred to call them “falsehoods” rather than utter the L-word) the former pollster said that the numbers were impossible to know anyway. “I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or the other. There’s no way to really quantify crowds,” Conway said. “We all know that.” So now you know, counting people is apparently an impossible science.
Perhaps even more worrying than “alternative facts” though is what Conway said earlier in the interview. Seemingly frustrated at Todd’s insistence on calling Spicer’s lies “falsehoods,” Conway issued a thinly veiled threat that sure sounded like a warning to other journalists. “If we’re going to keep referring to our press secretary in those types of terms I think we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here,” she said.