Referring to Donald Trump's inauguration, the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, claimed

This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period. Both in person and around the globe. (Sources: video footage, BBC News)

Spicer later clarified:

He said he had been including television and online viewers in his remarks on Saturday about the size of the inauguration crowd.

Is this true?

  • @Basic It's right, there is not US based in the quote. However, the problem with the comment I'm responding right now is that there are actually many interpretations possible of the statement, if one wants to be really precise. There are many more than it seems. Look, you can have the largest audience in TV, or in person (you can "witness" the inauguration by TV or in person). Now, I don't have time to see if the rest of the context allows to tell wich of the things he is reffferenring too. Also, are TV viewers outside USA counted? Do only US based or foreign based inaugurations count? Jan 23, 2017 at 23:24
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    I think our best bet here is to answer all possible meanings of the claim. There aren't that many and we can easily answer them all. (Except the global audience for which figures are not yet available. We can add them in when they are). Jan 23, 2017 at 23:27
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    It's possible that both (1) it was the largest inauguration crowd and (2) the majority in the crowd were protesters. Jan 29, 2017 at 9:28
  • "Is this true?" - that he was intending to include television and online viewers in his original claim (vs. scrambling to put a better face on it once the ridicule started pouring in)? No. :D Jun 21, 2017 at 16:37

1 Answer 1


No, at least not in person.

DC Metro reports lower ridership numbers compared to 2013 and 2009. This is significant because DC metro is used heavily and with many streets closed for the inauguration, it's the primary means of transportation for those who want to attend.

The national park service retweeted a now infamous picture on twitter comparing the 2009 and 2017 crows which seems to show much smaller number of people for Trumps inauguration. The tweet has been deleted since.

Another thing to look at is the inauguration parade. Here is a video of the Obama parade and a video before the Trump parade.

In terms of "around the globe" - this article by Snopes, cites the Nielsen Company according to which 31 million Americans watched Trump's inauguration and thus ranks 5th in terms of TV viewership.

Obviously, the US is not the world, so it's possible that the viewership was higher in other countries thus making up the shortfall in US viewership, but that seems unlikely due to a number of reasons.

Crowd estimation is very subjective and could be controversial so this might be the best data we can get. I think it's fair to say this was probably not the largest inauguration crowd ever.

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    How about online viewers? Here are some 2009 numbers. For 2017, we only have CNN so far (16.9 million streams on CNN in 2017, compared to 21.3 million in 2009.)
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 0:05
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    As far as I know no worldwide viewing figures are available. Which means that there is a small chance that Spicer may turn out to be right. Although you would have to wonder how he knew, if there were no figures... Jan 24, 2017 at 1:09
  • "The national park service which traditionally estimates event attendance" not since 1995. This paragraph strikes me as misleading; it implies that the photo is somehow related to NPS estimating crowd size decades ago (it isn't). NPS in general is not really relevant here.
    – ff524
    Jan 24, 2017 at 2:48
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    @Santropedro That may be, but they are still views, no? Isnt that kind of like arguing that Trump's crowd was smaller, but we should take that with a grain of salt since it was rainy? No matter the reason, there were fewer people in person for Trump but maybe more online, depending on how the numbers turn out.
    – Matt
    Jan 25, 2017 at 3:12
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    @Matt I agree. We should look at raw numbers not otherwise we'll find ourselves adjusting for the weather, population growth, etc etc to no end
    – ventsyv
    Jan 25, 2017 at 3:16

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