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)
Steven P – Congratulations for your almost accurate historical point. Yes, the Democrat Party and the KKK had great bonds of 'friendship' between them, but....
– There Independents and even Republicans who helped themselves with all the resources that the KKK could get to their campaigns and thus made temporary engagement with them and;
– Soon we will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 'death' of the 'Dixiecrats', you know, those Democrats who now ashame the name of the party due to their openly and proud racists positions and when they realized that they were going to loose turned Republican?
FIFTY YEARS AGO (sort of)?
Not that big...audience made up of extras leftover from Mel Gibson movies...
So, it was about the same size as a college football game. So, why is this considered NEWS. Tell me about the last Tennessee/Alabama football game in the same detail. I'm sure it outdrew the Beck crowd by twenty thousand. And was actually INTERESTING.
The massage is familiar to me 2008 primary Obama said same massage in west in close door meeting before Pennsylvania primary
Oh now Glenn Beck Palin agree with president
@ricky Did you post the same comment during the million man march?
Hey TOLERANT and CARING LIBS read your own comments and think about what Martin would have thought of YOU! LOL
I didn't realize that there were so many complete idiots in this country! I guess H. L. Mencken was right, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public"!
I love the "lemmings", etc. comments by Liberals. Go ahead, make yourself feel better. You haven't seen ANYTHING yet. If you seriously think that most people like how much has been spent, how much is yet to be spent, how big government is continuing to grow, etc., you need to be committed somewhere.
I understand the anti-Bush rhetoric and hatred, but many many votes weren't necessarily for Obama or the Dems, they were votes AGAINST Bush. News flash: Bush isn't on the ballot this year, and people now have a choice. Come November, this country moves back from it's pathetic current lack of leadership.