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. Charles W. Skinner

    The crowd for these pictures looks bigger and more densely packed than Farrakhan's "Million Man March" which was estimated at 400,000, and was MUCH larger than most of the liberal rallies that have been held on the Mall where attendance claims have been greatly exaggerated at several hundred thousand to a million.

    August 29, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. RJ1008

    Indoctrinated crowd. Simple.

    August 29, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. James Brooklyn N.Y.

    I know where all the domestic terrorist were on Saturday. They were hanging out with the retard Palin and the KKK leader himself Beck.

    August 29, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. Jan

    It is so so funny when the tiny left side of America cannot find anything SUBSTANTIVE to say no good arguments for their cause, that they start spewing vitriolic and hateful comments. It truely shows their inability to think anything on their own... even the abc,cbs,cnn commentators
    (right Katie?)... it is all the same repetitive name calling and snarkie comments.
    The Rally was mostly about God and renewing our faith in him. There was no Political agenda and talk was mostly about coming together.
    also do not for get the over 100,000 that were watching on-line... and that is an amout that is indisputable and able to be proven....
    America is waking up .... GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    August 29, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. scott

    The GOP and the Beckerheads continue to lie about the size of the crowd despite the fact the ONLY professional company to do an estimate put the number between 78,000 and 96,000.
    Is there any doubt that had Beck asked these people and the Beckerheads posting here to drink that Jim Jones Kool-Aide, they would?
    Continue to ignore reason and fact at your own peril little Lemmings.

    August 29, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. Hans

    If this was an important event, how come Bin Laden didn't come with his WMDs???

    August 29, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  7. Stace

    Funny how most think that if you go against the liberal agenda you are racist. Beck is an entertainer who digs up quotes and facts about very specific items... hmm kind of sounds like any news media. Wether you believe Beck or Palin, this country is broken bad. A leader of a foreign country comes in and talks badly about one of our states and congress applauds him??? Sure glad Obama talks about unity. psst

    August 29, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. Jim

    Michele Bachman ran out of fingers and toes and is clueless.

    The Glen Beck & Sarah Palin tour was a success...and yes so is Brittany Spears...hope they can take it internationally find greater success abroad and never come back.

    August 29, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  9. Keisha

    Yeah! wrote:
    WHITE IS BEAUTIFUL, LILA!

    I believe Lila was commenting on the overwhelming majority of white people in the audience, compared to the diversity on the stage. MLK was invoked constantly, but there were so few black people in the audience.

    Ironic, yes? She wasn't saying anything about the relative merits of one race versus another. I guess we'll leave that up to you.

    August 29, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  10. Peter

    Yup, the Republicans are going to save the day and fix everything in November.

    Do you people have amnesia?

    August 29, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. sandy

    i am very pleased at the HUGE turnout. i am sure that the media will try and deny/downplay it, but the pictures speak for themselves.

    americans are waking up to the destruction of their country and are becoming actively engaged in their effort to try and do something about it.

    this is excellent for america!

    August 29, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. fronco

    For the life of me i just can't understand 80 thousand people were there just to see a hostile charactor like G.Beck its just insanity.

    August 29, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. John

    I just don't understand it. When someone mentions self-responsibilty, stop entitlements, take control of your own life. Blacks yell and scream racism. Blacks feel like they can't do anything on there own. They expect the govt to give it to them.

    August 29, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  14. Salty

    It is comical but frightening to listen to you liberals spew your vitriolic rantings and accusations about those who attended this rally and what they stand for. "Lemmings", "KKK," "Hateful racists," "bigots," "American Taliban", "unable to think for themselves," and on, and on.

    The unbelievable irony of the left is that you either choose to ignore, or more likely were never taught how this great country was founded, what it stands for, and what has made it great. You elected a far left radical person who is leading this country into Socialism/Communism and potentially a totalitarian state. You show no understanding of freedom and what that truly means. If you understood freedom, you would not support the ever-encroaching reach of government into your lives.

    August 29, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  15. CaveatE

    The difference is that MLK was poor, lived poor, and spoke for the poor.
    Beck and Palin are, live and speak for something else. Not that their message is wrong or bad necessarily.

    But maybe the first words out of their mouths should have been "You cannot serve two masters, both God and money."

    August 29, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. Marcus

    To those who criticize those (like me) who keeps on insisting that there was like 99% of white (caucasian) people in the attendance, saying that this was not a big deal or whatever...
    In 1925 there was another rally in Washington DC, the attendance claimed that they were Christians, nice looking people who followewd the law and just wanted things like 'restore the lost honor'...
    And they were all whites because it was a KKK rally.

    August 29, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. Nick

    For a klan rally, pretty good size. Anyway, can anyone tell me how is going back to God (whatever that means) help unemployment. Get a life guys and DON'T let these guys fool you into giving your hard-earned money. These guys are crooks, out to get your money by any means.

    August 29, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  18. works for me

    I'll bet none of these entitlement minded fools helped clean up the empty beer cans, potato chip bags and cigarette butts.

    August 29, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  19. ricky Atlanta

    Talk about LACK of Diversity! it doesnt look like the America I see every day!

    August 29, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  20. Peter

    Glenn Beck with special guest Sarah Palin. Sounds like the #1 thing these two media stars were promoting was THEMSELVES. Astonishing that anyone thinks any differently.

    August 29, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  21. USN

    Judging from the poison reaction of the left , this scared you ! LOL

    August 29, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  22. Michael from Canada

    We here in Canada watch in amazement at the crumbling of your society....Only in America can a person of such mediocrity like Glen Beck gather so much attention....It is really quite sad.

    August 29, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  23. Janet

    Have to agree with common sense mom. She hit it right on the head.
    In God's eyes we have all fallen short of the glory of God.
    Very sad that basically this is all about man and has nothing to do with the "King of Kings"

    August 29, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  24. Anonymous

    @Marcus I'm sure MLK's niece, who was one of the people speaking at Glenn Beck's rally, really appreciates being compared to the KKK.

    August 29, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. carlos

    works for me...great point, but you forgot the depends.........

    August 29, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
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