Washington (AFP) - Former US president Jimmy Carter got a mischievous dig in at Donald Trump on Sunday, telling a commencement audience at a Virginia college that he had drawn a bigger crowd than the current president.
Looking out at a Liberty University stadium holding an estimated 20,000 graduates, friends and family members, the 93-year-old Carter said, "It's even bigger -- I hate to say this -- than it was last year," when Trump delivered the school's commencement speech.
"I don't know if President Trump would admit that or not."
Carter's smiling gibe drew good-natured laughs from the crowd at Liberty, a Christian university whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., has been a vocal supporter of Trump's.
The quip from the 39th president took aim at Trump's reaction in January 2017 when television news programs showed pictures of his inauguration crowd that were visibly smaller than those present when Barack Obama was first sworn into office in 2008.
Stung by the comparison, Trump directed spokesman Sean Spicer to push back.
Reporters were stunned when Spicer, in his first White House briefing, argued aggressively, and in the face of contrary evidence, that "that was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."
The Washington Post gave Spicer's assertion a mega-whopper rating of four Pinocchios, suggesting it should not have been a surprise that Trump's crowds were smaller in a Democratic stronghold like Washington, which gave him only 4 percent of its vote.
Staunch Democrat that Carter is, he has not always been critical of Trump. At one point he suggested that Trump's approach on immigration might produce positive results; he also expressed a willingness last year to serve as a special presidential envoy to North Korea.