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On 21 Jan 2017, the White House called a press conference where the press secretary accused the media of "deliberately false reporting" on two issues of which the number of people attending President Trump's inauguration was one. The white floor covering on the National Mall on the day of the inauguration was one of the pieces of evidence which the press secretary used to support his assertion that Trump's inauguration had a greater attendance than the previous inauguration and that the media was deliberately misleading the public by reporting otherwise.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the following:

This was the first time in our nation's history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual.

Source: "Sean Spicer held a press conference. He didn’t take questions. Or tell the whole truth", Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, 21 Jan 2017

Was President Trump's inauguration "the first time ... that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall"?

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No, it was not the first time they were used.

Such protective coverings were also used at the 2013 inauguration.

enter image description here

Caption:

Washington, D.C. — Birds fly over the mall in the early morning in front of the Washington Monument before the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Source: Photos: President Obama's second inauguration (Minnesota Public Radio)

See also the 17 January 2013 article Plan to Protect National Mall Grass This Inauguration:

With just four days to go before the Inauguration, caretakers of the National Mall are rushing to preserve the grass.

Huge crowds four years ago virtually destroyed the grounds.

Starting Friday morning, crews will put down thousands of plastic sheets over six-and-a-half acres of new grass on the Mall.

The terraplas, as it's called, sits inches above the grass, allowing light and water to pass through.

This multi-million dollar project will take two days to complete.

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    There are also all these time-lapse videos of inauguration day 2013, that show that the Mall looks just as white when people aren't standing on it: here's one, here's another view. – ff524 Jan 24 '17 at 0:45
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In 2013 terraplas plastic sheets were used. A total of 6.5 acres (=2.6 hectares, or 280,000 sq feet) of grass was covered:

Starting Friday morning, crews will put down thousands of plastic sheets over six-and-a-half acres of new grass on the Mall.

The terraplas, as it's called, sits inches above the grass, allowing light and water to pass through.

Source: NBC Washington

In 2017, terraflor coverings were used for the first time. Terrafloor coverings are not the same as plastic sheets. A much larger area of 18.3 acres (= 7.4 hectares = 800,000 sq feet) of grass was covered.

Right now, 800,000 square feet of Mall is being covered with approximately 50,000 of these panels

Source: Atlas Obscura

So, Sean Spicer was right when he said floor coverings were used for the first time. The floor coverings look white in the images. Much more space was highlighted in 2017 than was in 2013 which would make it more noticeable if the crowd was scant in those areas.

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    Also, of note in 2013 white chairs were used, which might be mistaken for floor covering. Only 283,140 sq ft was covered with plastic in 2013, vs 800,000 sq ft covered in 2017. – Inquiring Mind Jan 24 '17 at 0:29
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    Thanks for adding references. The substantial increase in area is interesting. The terraplas versus terrafloor distinction is still rather unclear: 1) terrapas is no more or less sheeting than terrafloor - they are both polyethylene tiles, of the same colour, 2) the reference you provided doesn't mention which product as used in 2017, 3) both terrafloor and terrapas products are made by the company terrapas, making it possible they used "terraplas's terrafloor" in 2013, but just called in "terraplas". – Oddthinking Jan 24 '17 at 7:33
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    Both terraplas® and terraflor® are "floor coverings", isn't it? – MC Emperor Jan 24 '17 at 8:47
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    "TERRAFLOR® is a second-generation grass cover system keeping the same basic design features as Terraplas, but adding an overlapping edge." terraplasusa.com/products/outdoor-synthetic-cover-systems You can see Terraplas in white in the manufacturer's powepoint presentation here: drive.google.com/file/d/0B13DKZDu2CZyZVh6Y0U4UVNRdlk/view The manufacture considers both Terraplas and Terraflor to be translucent. – DavePhD Jan 24 '17 at 13:24
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    -1 Both products are basically the same. – iamnotmaynard Jan 25 '17 at 19:40

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