Republicans on Capitol Hill are coming to the Trump administration’s defense after the new president declared over the weekend he has a “running war with the media.”
President Trump and White House press secretary Sean Spicer inaccurately claimed over the weekend that Friday's inauguration was the most-attended in history in defiance of all available data, including aerial photographs, TV ratings and statistics from Washington's Metro system.
But that didn't stop House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) from taking the House floor Monday night to claim the media would cover Trump differently if he weren’t a Republican.
“He is off to a fast start. His Cabinet consists of smart, experienced and successful individuals. He already has taken steps to keep jobs in America, put unnecessary regulations on hold and improve healthcare. Consumer confidence is at a 16-year-high,” Smith said.
"No, the national liberal media won’t print that or air it or post it. Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth,” he concluded.
Smith delivers House floor speeches at least once a week criticizing the mainstream media. Earlier this month, he denounced a New York Times column describing the impact of droughts in Africa believed to be exacerbated by climate change as “fake news.”
His comments on the House floor reflected a similar sentiment expressed earlier in the day by Spicer, who at the White House press briefing said the "negative" media coverage is "demoralizing."
"It’s not just about a crowd size. There’s this constant theme to undercut the enormous support he has," Spicer said of Trump. "And it’s unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough. You can’t win."
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, argued the Trump team's claims were simply commentary on media coverage.
"I think they are trying to make a case when the press is saying something, don’t necessarily take it at face value. Just like he’s done to other elected officials," Walker said during a briefing with reporters in his Capitol Hill office on Monday.
When asked if it could be problematic for GOP policy priorities if Trump can't stay on message, Walker acknowledged that "it may be at some point."
But Walker suggested that Trump needed some time to adjust to the office for which he campaigned over the course of more than a year.
"You’re talking about someone who transitioned out of a different world where he was basically in charge of everything," Walker said. "There is a learning curve. Now, when you talk about discipline of message, that’s part of what I would say is a political maturation.
"This is a new place in understanding the parameters that our founding fathers laid out many years ago."
Not all Republicans are siding with Trump on the issue.
Earlier Monday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) acknowledged the Trump administration had gotten off to a “rocky start.” He sympathized with the Trump team’s sense of media bias, but warned they shouldn’t try to promote falsehoods.
"There's a big danger, because there's one thing to push back against perceived media bias — as Republicans, we like to see that. It's another thing to come out and say that a fact is only a fact if it fits into your world view," Kinzinger said.
"The campaign way of doing things could get very old if, in fact, this becomes what the new president's team is. I would definitely discourage them from using the term 'alternative facts' again,” he said, referring to a term coined by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday.