A New York Times sports editor has claimed responsibility for what he called a "terrible" tweet comparing the New England Patriots' visits to the White House in 2015 and 2017.
Mr Trump hosted the American football team on 19 April to congratulate them on their Super Bowl win. As part of their visit, team members and some staff lined up for a photo on the White House front steps.
In photos posted to social media, the number of attendees at this year’s event seemed significantly lower than a similar event hosted by President Barack Obama in 2015. This seemed to confirm reports that several players, including star quarterback Tom Brady, skipped the event this year.
The New York Times sports division on Wednesday tweeted out photos of both events, writing, “Patriots' turnout for President Obama in 2015 vs. Patriots' turnout for President Trump today.”
The official Patriots account quickly shot back, saying that the photos “lack context.” They attributed the apparent difference in crowd size to a change in seating arrangements.
“In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs,” the team tweeted. “In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn.”
Mr Trump jumped on the apparent error, tweeting, “Failing @nytimes, which has been calling me wrong for two years, just got caught in a big lie concerning New England Patriots visit to WH”.
A New York Times sports editor took responsibility for the tweet on Thursday.
“I wish I could say it’s complicated but no, this one is pretty straightforward: I’m an idiot,” the editor told Yahoo News’ Colin Campbell. “...I made a decision in about four minutes that clearly warranted more time.”
Mr Campbell did not attribute the comment to a specific sports editor, but the Times’s lead sports editor is listed as Jason Stallman.
The Times acknowledged the error and removed the photo from their website.
These photos lack context. Facts: In 2015, over 40 football staff were on the stairs. In 2017, they were seated on the South Lawn. https://t.co/iIYtV0hR6Y— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 20, 2017
A Patriots' spokesperson confirmed to The Independent, however, that more players attended the event in 2015 than 2017.
More than 50 players attended the event at the Obama White House, while 34 attended Mr Trump's, according to Vice President of Media Relations Stacey James. Mr James also pointed out that only 27 players attended the event in 2005.
"Nobody asked, nobody cared [when] we had 27 people go to the White House in 2005," Mr James said. "...This year, for some strange reason, the question was being asked at the Super Bowl before the game was played.
"The confetti hadn’t hit the ground after the game before people asked the players if they’d be attending the White House," he said.