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Megyn Kelly grills Sean Spicer over whether he stands by past White House claims

NBC host Megyn Kelly sparred with former White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerRealClearPolitics editor corrects Giuliani on Pennsylvania claim: 'This is false' Job-seeking Trump officials likely to get chilly reception on K Street Trump challenges electoral process as hopes for victory fade MORE on Thursday in a contentious interview that hinged on the former spokesman's defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE's false and misleading claims.

Spicer, appearing on NBC's "Today" to promote his upcoming book "The Briefing," sought to cast Trump as a salesman who embraces hyperbole to sell his products, whether they are luxury apartments or policies.

But Kelly tore into the former press secretary for trying to "justify" some of the president's most questionable claims.

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"You're trying to justify the misleading now, as opposed to just apologizing for it," Kelly said.

"That's not true," Spicer retorted, adding that he could have done a "much better job" at certain points in his tenure as press secretary.

Spicer, who resigned last year after Trump named Anthony ScaramucciAnthony ScaramucciSunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Scaramucci says Trump has united country: 'It just happens to be against him' Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE as his new communications director, first gained notoriety just after the real estate mogul's inauguration when he asserted that the crowd that showed up to witness Trump taking the oath of office "was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period."

In his interview with Kelly on Thursday, Spicer acknowledged that he "made mistakes" as the White House's chief spokesman. But he was steadfast in his insistence that Trump himself was truthful.

"He's never sat in front of me and lied to my face or told me to go do anything," Spicer told Kelly.

"Just because the lie is not to your face doesn't mean it didn't happen," she replied.

When confronted by Kelly about false assertions made by Trump — that former President Obama released 122 prisoners from the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, for example — Spicer dismissed the examples, saying that the president is, first and foremost, a salesman.

"I think there's several areas where he's used his hyperbole —" he said, before being interrupted by Kelly.

"No, that's not hyperbole. Those are not truthful statements," Kelly replied. 

"I've made mistakes myself, I think we've all done them," Spicer said. "I'm not accountable for every single thing that anybody else has said."

"I know, but you're accountable for saying you think he's a truthful person," Kelly said.

"That's what I believe," Spicer replied.