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. Joe

    Given Beck's track record for honesty and ethics, I picture his staff taking footage from Dr. King's original rally, and using it to claim that half a million black folks attended Beck's rally.

    August 29, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  2. Tam

    God, please help and bless America. These people know not what they do.

    August 29, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    What a shame that the druggies/liberals have to trash Beck's message. You notice how they demean, degrade and call names. It is such a shame they are so bitter and hateful. After November, they will become more so. Look at diridi@ hateful post that has absolutely nothing to do with the conversation, just plaing hatred. Note all of the drugged up weirdos injecting racism, naturally from the liberal side where there is none. The liberals have nothing else but hate going for them and I guess fear.

    August 29, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. Carol

    A gathering of the Klan rally under the name of religion. Palin "advertises" her religion frequently. And as for her son, wasn't he in jail for tampering with the school bus brakes in Wasilla?
    If you want distortions of what is going on in this country and the endless bashing from these racists, listen to these people!

    August 29, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. American

    @Steven P - but the KKK vote republican now

    August 29, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. Homer

    Boy the liberals are going on today, like a bunch of little whining bitchy girls and that's just the "boys".

    August 29, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. pat

    all Beck and his ilk want is to silence the minority of this country. You can't reclaim what was not yours in the first place. If not for the oppression of minorities by the white population there would not have been civil rights.

    August 29, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. yoyolite

    The real America? When MLK made his speech the crowd was in the millions and diverse. When Obama was sworn in the crowd was in the millions and diverse. When Beck hold his rallly, the crowd is in the tens of thousands and white. The real America? You choose!

    August 29, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  9. boatvolt

    Michelle Bachmann=The New Republican Math

    If we keep electing morons, we deserve no better.

    On a positive note, it speaks to the resiliency of the
    USA to have survived 8 friggin' years of George W.
    Admonition to him should have been "It's the Stupid, Stupid!"

    August 29, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. Corpsman

    "Anonymous August 29th, 2010 10:43 am ET
    and someone would believe CBS news because??????????"

    Let me try to explain it to you, in simple terms you might understand: It's not about believing CBS. Rather, they hired a company of professionals who use proven measures (photos of crowd density and coverage; gridding the area; mathematics) to achieve a reasonably accurate estimate, unlike, say, Michelle Bachman, who just decided that she wouldn't accept anything less than the number she wanted.

    As James Schlesinger, United States Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975, said: “Each of us is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” The teabaggers can't tell the truth from their own lies anymore. Maybe they never could.

    August 29, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. BobPlanet

    Sharpton's crowd was about what, about 3,500 crybabies, and he gets equal billing in the PC Press? HA

    August 29, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  12. johnnyhouse

    CNN never seems to have any trouble guessing the number when it is a Civil Rights rally.Never is less than a million

    August 29, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  13. quinn

    Welcome to Whitestock. Beck is the new Elmer Gantry and Sarah Palin is a close second. The guy is a joke.

    August 29, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. 1984

    A return to nazism. Sad.

    August 29, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  15. basshole

    The size of the crowd has little to do with the veracity of Beck's message. Britney Spears sells millions of records, doesn't make her an artist of credibility.

    August 29, 2010 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. annie s

    I don't think the numbers matter all that much – there is no denying that it was an exceptional turnout. And surely there were enough people there to scare the bejesus out of those of us who want this country to move forward – not backward.

    August 29, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  17. Jay

    It's funny how there's little mention of any significant message in his 'speech'. I turned it on for a few minutes and Beck was repeating the same simple sentence over and over, something about doing things today. Then he switched over to some of his crazy talk and started talking about a guy who ran a slave ship. Then he continued the 'obvious statement is obvious' pattern. It was probably the weakest 'message' I've ever heard.

    August 29, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. susan

    These people are frightened because the US is moving on . Let's hope that this movement does not take us back to the dark ages. We are a diverse country, no longer are promotions and school entry based on being white. We all need to realize that this is actually progress, and stop feeding the fear.
    We would do best to support our educational insitutions and make sure that future Americans can compete in the global economy. We are in danger of becoming an ignorant society.

    August 29, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. Alice

    This is all about money and fame.. Beck and Palin are just too full of themselves and I agree with one of the above comments. They should tour together and I'm sure their message (if thats what you want to call it) will "peter" out. If Beck and Palin are claiming civil rights, religous freedom etc... Where were our Priests, Rabbis, Buddist leaders, etc. I guess they didn't fit in with Beck/Palin agenda.

    August 29, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. bernice

    It's really sad to know we have that many lunatics in our country that need someone like Beck & Palin to believe in & follow.....God help us..We're in really deep..

    August 29, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. NVa Native

    Our nation is still great and honorable, despite our tolerance for these mindless social parasites like Beck and Phailin, and their irrational self-centered minions.

    Most of us never lost our honor, sure hope you teabaggers can find yours.

    And Fox/teabagger math sucks – remember the last teabagger rally where Fox used pictures of trees with leaves intermingled with trees without leaves. No honor or integrity means "illegitimate media".

    Although the teabagger klan are of a backward mind set, the majority of Americans say – "NO we won't go back[ward]!"

    August 29, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  22. Lynne

    As far as I can see, the Beck rally was much ado about nothing. What honor are these people trying to restore to America? The honor we lost under the Bush/Cheney administration obviously.

    August 29, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  23. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    All these lemmings coming to worship their false God... How pathetic is that?

    August 29, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  24. JD


    Are you 5? Go play on the play ground. The only intolerance yesterday was at the Shapton rally and people like you.

    The days of using racism and bigotry charges as a means of intimidation are almost at and end. It is now an argument and an accusation of the weak.

    August 29, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  25. tochi

    Agenda here was simple- summon God to subvert democracy because we didn't like the outcome of the election

    August 29, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
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