August 29th, 2010
10:07 AM ET
12 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 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.” 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 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. Anonymous

    and someone would believe CBS news because??????????

    August 29, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. Texas Progressive

    It's not hard to get a big crowd of hateful racists with no clue of reality. The right-wing is working hard to put their boys back in Washington, the same bunch who all but destroyed America with their corporate pandering and evangelical message. Most are white, most are Christian, and all are doing more damage than terrorists ever did. They create their own reality and revise history to support that viewpoint. How delusional can you get?

    August 29, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  3. Lila

    I looked at the pictures. There was no diversity in this crowd. It was WHITE, WHITE,WHITE. And Glenn Beck trying to take King's place...very sad.

    August 29, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  4. FatSean

    Tea Party're just going to Nader the GOP in 2012.

    I've never seen such a large group of old, fat, white tax-whiners in one place. MLK's people marched for equal rights, TeaBaggers march to not pay their fair share of decades of deficit spending starting with Reagan.

    August 29, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  5. Mike

    Reading all these lib post are funny... Push the numbers as low as you like. Keep playing into our hand, the conservitive movement is awake and PLEASE, PLEASE keep this dribble going. It just shows how close minded, and out of touch you lefties are. PLEASE keep it up... THANK you for being you, you show all of us REAL americans how important it is we need to do is. THANK YOU.. PLEASE keep it up 🙂

    August 29, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  6. Laurie

    Gee, who to believe? A professional crowd estimating company says under 100,000. Michele Bachmann right wingnut says no less than a million, with witnesses no less! Michele is so delusional and on so many levels. Sorry, I'll go with the professionals. These photos don't look like a very diverse crowd either, surprise, surprise.

    August 29, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. johnrj08

    That's OK. I can live with less than 100,000 morons in the country. This rally restored nothing. All it did was demonstrate the amount of anger, intolerance and ignorance that exists here and how well some people know how to follow road maps.

    August 29, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  8. Curt

    Jesse Ventura was spot on. Religious people are weak minded. Easy pray for Fascists hiding behind religion. It's amazing how many turned out. This is further proof of the decline of America. Instead of a rally to inspire new ideas, we get Religion. Sweet.

    August 29, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  9. ruty

    Glenn Beck is a VERY sick man. Pray for him to go away.

    August 29, 2010 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  10. RAG

    There you have it, right from Frau Bachman's mouth, "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today". In other words, "The truth is what we want it to be". The Fascist epistemology in one sentence. May God have mercy on us all.

    August 29, 2010 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  11. works for me

    No matter how "large" these crowds were... they'll never match the size of Becks ego. It doesn't matter what God the others believe in, the only God he truly believes in is the money God.

    Seeing Palin there for photo ops and the opening of her mouth spewing her constant whiny rhetoric made this event even more delightful. They're a good pair! Perhaps they should tour together and split the profits 30/70.
    You can all figure out who gets the 30%

    August 29, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  12. Dan

    To the writer who says who would believe "CBS News", the reason is simple. They are not a subsidiary of The GOP Governor's Association, as is, FOX News. Simply put, CBS attempted an accurate count. I'm sure FOX places the count of tea-baggers and Klan members in the Millions!!

    August 29, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. fred

    Beck for President 2012....Lets take back America!

    August 29, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. ncwiseguy

    you know why i dislike hussein.............because of what he s doing to this once great nation..............

    August 29, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  15. e.c.coleman

    Radical, liberal D.C. and the present administration will certainly give No Credit to size of this highly Successful Rally...........nor will sharpton, the instigator of ill will and bad karma who seems to think that the Negro Race, OWNS the DAY.
    How Sad and Pitiful was this ole man, trying to 'Claim the Day as 'Ours.'
    Surely, there was a group in Excess of the last inaugural event.
    Glenn Beck created a very special event that was highly meaningful for this country.
    Too bad for sharpton and the NAACP....looks like someone stole their 'thunder.' Apparently, there were no followers who cared to participate in their little private 'hate rally against Beck.'

    August 29, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. Steven P

    To the author named "Republicans Are The American Taliban" who wrote :

    " August 29th, 2010 10:11 am ET
    Pretty good sized Klan rally..."

    Let me remind you that the KKK was the militant arm of the Democrat party.

    August 29, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. Northdakota

    hahaha.... CNN made FOOLS of themselves... they showed up at the Beck rally looking to find politics, looking to find trouble, because Beck had said this was non-political. They didn't find anything, so they had to wander into the crowd to find one or two people who did have an agenda for the day. Fools... CNN making up their own news to report, not unlike the Chelsea Clinton wedding ("ooo, there goes a truck undoubtedly carrying supplies to the wedding").... I am embarrassed for CNN.

    August 29, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Anonymous

    How many crybabies attended Sharpton's "Stickin it to the Man" thing a few blocks over. He sure gets equal billing in the press.

    August 29, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. David

    Is not this the same clown who made fun of Obama's rally in Berlin? Come on America and the media wake up! This is another con artist, turn entertainer, who make money out of writing so called books and becomes a millionaire by saying what a "slected" group of people want to hear.

    August 29, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Bringing out the curious and the cooky. I've seen more people at a Bruce Springsteen concert. Since Glenn Beck is a Moron, I'll bet there was no alcohol served. It's good to know that in the DC area (and I'm sure the area from which the people that attended was larger) contains less than 100,000 idiots.

    Looks like it's time for another million man march.

    BTW, when it comes to Glenn Beck...

    Would you let a self-proclaimed "doctor" perform surgery on you that never attended, much less graduated from med school?

    August 29, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. Vermilion Dragon

    The crowd size isn't as big as everyone is saying. Notice every single person has their own lawn chair. During normal rallies its shoulder to shoulder down the mall, these people, being obese and all easily take up the space of 3 people each. I say 50-60k people.

    August 29, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  22. Aggie in DC

    Why is this number so impressive to people? We have roughy 80,000 people come out to see my college football team lose every week!

    Additionally, the number of people in this crowd doesn't include the number of tourists that came to one of the most popular tourist sites in the country, on a Saturday. That's easily 5-10k people right there.

    August 29, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. Deb

    A comment yesterday accused me of having had a lobotomy because I don't support this megalomaniac and accused anyone who does of feeding his mental illness. I'll just say that I'll take that lobotomy and spot the whole crowd (however many) my IQ over theirs combined.

    August 29, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  24. Curt

    Fred: Can you explain what "Lets take back America" means. I mean detail exactly what you're talking about.

    August 29, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  25. James

    Which estimate should we trust? There's the one from the organization that has developed a specific scientific method for crowd size. The other one is from the organizers of the rally, who has a vested interest in inflating the numbers, hasn't disclosed the basis of his estimate, and provides an estimate with a huge margin of era (estimate range). The reasoning that says we should use the Beck estimate is the same philosophy that says we should let companies like BP decide which regulations it wants to follow. Beck followers love the philosophy of corruption, conflict of interest, and waste!

    August 29, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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