President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July “Salute To America” has turned into another opportunity for partisan bickering over crowd size.
“I don’t know what the final count was, but that went all the way back to the Washington Monument,” the president said this morning. Trump also touted the crowd size in a tweet following the event.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2019
In response to the photo Trump tweeted of “Salute to America,” rumors spread on social media that a photo of a larger 2008 concert had been superimposed on the picture, causing Snopes to issue a fact-check to disprove them.
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez disputed Trump’s claims of a large crowd, tweeting the event was “poorly attended.”
Chairman of the Democratic Coalition Jon Cooper did the same, saying, “Trump’s event in DC today has drawn an embarrassingly small crowd — despite his desperate attempts to boost attendance by adding flyovers and a display of tanks.”
White House officials voiced concerns prior to “Salute to America” that thunderstorms and late-planning could result in a low attendance, reported the Hill. Worries also abounded that too many people had preexisting plans for the holiday when Trump announced the event.
Organizers were “scrambling” to hand out VIP tickets for the event, said the Washington Post. They even attempted to give tickets to a non-profit advocacy group barred from accepting government gifts to reach their objective of giving them all out.
The media was divided in interpreting the size of the crowd at Salute to America.
While Vox said “a decent audience turned out” for the event, the Huffington Post’s lead article Friday morning was entitled “Tepid Turnout,” and said the event “numbered possibly as little as the high tens of thousands.” The Huffington Post’s article was accompanied by an image showcasing a largely empty area adjacent to the Reflecting Pool — the back end of the VIP section.
A similar image of the same location was published by Business Insider, but the photo was labeled as showing people gathering ahead of the speech.
“People gather on the National Mall ahead of the ‘Salute to America’ Fourth of July event with US President Donald Trump at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, July 4, 2019,” the caption said. The caption Business Insider used is the one provided by Getty Images on the picture.
Images taken prior to the speech also show the VIP area on the other side of the Reflecting Pool being filled in closer to the start of Trump’s speech than the area open to the general public.
In pictures taken during the speech, the back end of the VIP area appeared to remain slightly below capacity.
In the area open to the general public, there were multiple incidents of pushing, shoving, and verbal altercations due in part to the close quarters. For example, one woman shoved another woman for standing “too close” to her.
Other images of “Salute to America” show the crowd gathered to see the military aircraft and Trump’s address.
Onlookers braved frequent bouts of heavy rain, thunder, and lightning while waiting hours for the event to begin. (RELATED: Trump Delivers ‘Salute To America’ As Americans Brave Pouring Rain On The National Mall)
No official crowd size estimate for “Salute to America” has been released.