When Sean Spicer, the new White House press secretary, spoke to journalists Saturday, he falsely claimed the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. for President Donald Trump’s inauguration was the largest inauguration crowd in history.

Here are the facts:

  • The Metro system saw 570,557 trips on President Trump’s inauguration day, according to Washington’s Metro data. That’s half the number of trips that Metro saw on Barack Obama’s first inauguration day in 2009 -- the metro system drew 1.12 million trips then.
  • Aerial photographs showed the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was smaller than at Obama’s inauguration.
  • Just over 30 million people tuned into Trump’s inauguration, according to Nielsen data. In 2009, nearly 38 million people turned on their TVs for Obama’s first inauguration. And in 1981, 42 million people watched former President Ronald Reagan be sworn in.
Inauguration crowd photos
A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in President Donald Trump at 12:01pm (L) Jan. 20, 2017 and President Barack Obama Jan. 20, 2009, in Washington, DC, Reuters/Lucas Jackson (L), Stelios Varias

It’s impossible to know how many people watched online, but the available evidence points to the same conclusion: Trump did not bring in the largest inauguration crowd ever.

But the next day, when journalist Chuck Todd pressed Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to Trump, about the blatant falsities of Spicer’s claims, Conway retorted that Spicer had offered “alternative facts.”

Both Spicer and Conway have been criticized for dismissing facts in favor of fabricated facts. Even the Merriam-Webster pitched, defining the word “fact” in a rather pointed tweet.

But falsehoods -- untruths presented as “alternative facts,” even if that phrase was only coined Sunday -- from the White House are nothing new.

Perhaps two of the most famous presidential lines are falsehoods.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He addressed rumors of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, then-intern at the White House. But the world soon learned that statement was a lie and Clinton was later impeached and acquitted.

Rewind a couple decades earlier to 1973, when President Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook.” As it turned out, Nixon and his administration were indeed guilty of wiretapping phones of their Democratic opponents, stealing secret documents and covering it all up. Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

Spicer and Conway’s falsehoods came in 2017, though, when misinformation can be exacerbated by the internet through fake news writers, conspiracy theories and social media. Plus, the volume of falsehoods seemed to boom during the 2016 presidential race.

And, according to the Pew Research Center, audiences are noticing: