August 29th, 2010
10:07 AM ET
4 years ago

Wildly conflicting reports filed about Beck rally crowd size

ALT TEXT A view of the ‘Restoring Honor’ crowd. (PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Hernandez-Arthur /CNN)

Washington (CNN) – If you’ve ever tried to guess how many jelly beans are inside a huge jar, you have some idea what it’s like to estimate crowds at massive Washington D.C. rallies.

But the stakes in Washington are far higher, with the estimates politically charged and highly controversial. U.S. Park Police, burned by previous controversies, no longer makes them. So there are no official estimates of crowd size at events on the National Mall.

And Saturday’s “Restoring Honor” rally with Fox News and radio show host Glenn Beck was no different. There was wide disagreement of just how big the crowd near the Lincoln Memorial was, followed by claims that some estimates low-balled the size.

CBS News took a scientific approach, commissioning a crowd estimate by the company AirPhotosLive.com. The network reported that AirPhotosLive estimated the crowd at 87,000 people. But they noted that with a margin of error of 9,000, “between 78,000 and 96,000 attended the rally.”

The NBC Nightly News estimated the number of people in attendance as “tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands.”

ABCNews.com reported “the rally has attracted more than 100,000 people.”

Fox News, citing organizers, aired a banner characterizing it this way: “CROWD ATTENDING BECK RALLY ESTIMATED AT OVER 500,000.”

The Washington Post noted that Beck told the crowd that he had heard “it was between 300,000 and 500,000."

And the Post quoted Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), speaking soon after the rally ended as saying, "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today – because we were witnesses."

On the morning after the rally, Beck himself told Fox News Sunday that he believed the crowd was as low as 300,000 and as big as 650,000.

CNN contacted AirPhotosLive.com about the estimate they did for CBS News. A company official told CNN they used photos taken from their tethered balloons to shoot photos at the height of the crowd. They then had 3 experts use their own methodologies to evaluate the crowd. Company officials said they extrapolated the crowd size from 2-D and 3-D grids of the photographs marked off in small boxes.

The New York Times noted, “Officials do not make crowd estimates because they are unreliable and can be controversial,” adding, “by any measure it was a large turnout.”

So how many people were really there? In the end, most people will believe what their own eyes tell them. And the one estimate guaranteed to be right: Beck’s own comment making fun of the inevitable controversy: "I have just gotten word from the media that there are over 1,000 people here today.”

Sarah Palin responded to the media reports on her Twitter page around 12:45 p.m. ET.

"Silly media reports 'maybe thousands'@Beck’s 'irrelevant' event;insinuating MSM sheeple mustn't believe their own eyes&ears..." the tweet read.

(Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET)


Filed under: Glenn Beck
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. Homer

    If this had been a rally by liberals, they would have said there was at least a million people there.

    August 29, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  2. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    Pretty good sized Klan rally...

    August 29, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  3. burt

    Wow, that's a lot of lemmings drinking the kool aid.

    August 29, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. Chad from Tampa

    The fact the CNN is focusing on this instead of what the Restoring Honor event's message is says alot about CNN's agenda.

    August 29, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. mike

    And how many people live in america again the media is making this rally sound like this is the voice of americans but most voters in this country on that beautiful day wanted to spend time with there family and not yelling and screaming a bunch of crap I have better things to do with my life and at the end of the day I will vote you can count on that

    August 29, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. malabar

    I guess size really does matter ;-)

    August 29, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  7. Bandwidth

    Absolutely no way in the world there are one million people in the photos. Absurd. 100,000 is probably nearly right. Bachmann should cut back on the dosage of whatever she's taking.

    August 29, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. Tony in Maine

    Billions, perhaps trillions attended. The entire population of the universe, even Klingons, stood in rapture, waiting for Beck and Sarah of Wasilla to speak God's words.

    I think I'm going to be sick.

    August 29, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. Sal Fladabosco

    It doesn't surprise me that the object people put the crowd at one number and Beck and Bachman and Fox put it ten times as high. Those people couldn't tell the truth about anything. Beck is scum. i feel sorry for anyone who believes otherwise.

    August 29, 2010 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. Clwyd

    Glenn has now shown that his true calling is a preacher. He's now trying to turn us all into Mormons. I think of him in terms of a "lower life form!" How can any intelligent and educated American agree with him and sarah pathetic who have gone off the deep end and really have nothing to say. I noted not one African American in the crowd that was on my TV screen! I just figure the number of people there still reflect the 23-25% of people who are racist conservative extremists! That number hasn't changed in my life time, but it now has a voice which is scary!

    August 29, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  11. vic

    CNN really I don’t think this news

    Please talk about jobs, housing market, education etc India, China growing fast in all the direction. Still we are talking about religion, birth certificate

    CNN Sunday morning is my favorite day to watch TV state of the union, GPS and reliable sources keep up your standard please

    By the way who care about Glenn Beck When he left the HLN he lost his brain and dignity

    August 29, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Anonymous

    What this tells me is that there are at least 75,000 people that have no clue how to think for themselves.

    August 29, 2010 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Mr. Davidson

    I heard 50 to 60 thousand on the news but judging from past years crowd photos from other events it looks like ten times that much about like the last million man march.

    August 29, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. th

    Bachmann is such an idiot. It is surprising that she can find her way home.

    August 29, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. Caeser

    How many were actually there to see Beck?

    August 29, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  16. RJ1008

    With the pool occupying most of the space in the middle, obviously it looks bigger than it is. I wouldn't give more than 60000. Also, from the photos you can see, on the left of the pool, there is plenty of space for the folks to fit it but the tea partiers cleverly spread themselves to make it look big. Look at the two big empty patches on the left of the pool.

    August 29, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. ST

    I have tried to compare and contrast the photo taken in Germany when the then Candidate Obama paid a visit and gave a speech there. The number of people who attended were 200,000. What I see on this picture of Beck rally is, the number is less than half of the Germany rally. Both rallies attended on an open straight area.

    August 29, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  18. chav

    87,000 or 100,000 thousand.. Whats the difference they are all tools.

    August 29, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. benjamin

    If course CBS would estimate low crowd–why wouldn,t they?

    August 29, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  20. Joe

    How many at Sharpton' rally???????????? Anyone reporting on that?

    What were the demographics?????

    August 29, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. diridi

    Fox news needs to learn the lesson....okay from last presidential election, they even sent bunch of DVDs...idiotic thugs, like Glenn Beck....nasty for the nation...wake up America...just vote for any Democrat....you win....God Bless the nation, the USA!!!!!!!!!!

    August 29, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  22. selina

    that's something to be proud about

    August 29, 2010 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. roro

    Glenn Beck is the new Elmer Gantry. And if you believe him, I've got a bridge I can sell you.

    August 29, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  24. republicanhater1

    I say, whether there was 10,000 or 100,000 where were all these good white folks when Reagan, the Republican Congress and the Bush administration running things into the ground as they did.

    Any Answers..................

    well here is mine, as I have always said from day one, they are all a bunch BO haters, not because of his polices but because of his color.

    August 29, 2010 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. BeanerECMO

    Let's see; CBS uses a 'scientific' method to estimate the size when they disagree with the event, but uses seat-of-the-pants estimate to support an event with which they agree. Hmmmm.

    August 29, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
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