After the White House incorrectly boasted about an "armada" of U.S. aircraft carriers headed towards the Korean Peninsula as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continued to surge last weekend, press secretary Sean Spicer doubled down during a press briefing on Wednesday. telling reporter "We have an armada going toward the peninsula. That's a fact."
"We have an armada going toward the peninsula. That's a fact," Spicer insisted.
It was revealed this week that the so-called armada, known as the USS Carl Vinson, is only currently moving towards the Korean Peninsula. However, at the time various administration officials touted its movement, including President Donald Trump, it was going in the exact opposite direction — towards Australia.
"We are sending an armada. Very powerful," Trump said on April 12 during an interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo after being asked about North Korea's planned missile launch. Secretary James Mattis said the Carl Vinson was "on her way up there" on On April 10.
However, a photo published by the Navy on Saturday showed that the USS Carl Vinson was actually in the Sunda Strait in India.
But this doesn't matter to Sean Spicer, who apparently doesn't believe that the administration's initial statements about the aircraft carrier were at all inaccurate. On multiple occasions, the public was told that the Carl Vinson was directly headed near North Korea.
"The president said that we have an armada going towards the peninsula. That’s a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather," Spicer said to defend the series of widely misconstrued statements on Wednesday. "The statement that was put out was that the Carl Vinson Group was headed to the Korean Peninsula. It is headed to the Korean Peninsula," he said.
"We said that it was heading there, and it was heading there — it is heading there. … If there was an impression, then there should have been clarification from people who were seeking it," he said, blaming the international confusion on the reporters hitting him with questions during the press briefing on Wednesday.
So according to Spicer, because the ultimate destination of the Carl Vinson is, in fact, the Korean Peninsula, it didn't matter that the White House did not clarify that the aircraft carrier would not arrive there until later on in the month. When Trump originally spoke of the matter he clearly implied — or at least made it seem as if — the Carl Vinson was heading to the Korean Peninsula at that exact moment, possibly resulting in a standoff with North Korea.
At a time when regional tensions are on the rise, the White House communications staff refuses to clearly state the timeline of events. Why?
As Aaron Blake wrote in the Washington Post:
This explanation will undoubtedly satisfy the many people who have given Spicer and the Trump White House the benefit of the doubt over significantly more clear-cut falsehoods and messaging failures. But — and this is the key — there was a narrative out there that a U.S. aircraft carrier was headed into a very significant and conspicuous part of the western Pacific Ocean at a very key and tense time. North Korea was about to test a missile, and the Trump administration was ratcheting up U.S. rhetoric about a potential standoff. Without that context, the omission would be forgivable; but this was big news, worthy of giving people a completely accurate picture.