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. Sue

    I think that it definitely says a lot, when Dr. Martin Luther King's niece chose to speak at Beck's rally-– intead of Al Sharpton's "Let's continue with race division' rally.

    Most are estimating those who showed up at Beck's rally to be between 300,000 and 500,000.

    However, the liberals, CNN, etc. can continue to downplay this as much as they want---as in 2 months, there will be millions showing up to vote. And, they will NOT be voting for the policies of Obama, Pelosi and Reid!!!

    I can see November from my house........And, in 2 months, we will be partying like it is 1994 (the last time the Democrats really got clobbered at the polls and sent to the unemployment lines)

    August 29, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  2. J Gabor

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

    WHAT!? Double WTF!!! The KKK were a Democratic based collection. I can't even fathom how absurd that statement is.
    Is this a part of the revisionist history that Glenn Beck's non-educated, self-proclaimed academic ignorant religulous tries to sell to the American public?
    Wow, how ignorant is our population?

    August 29, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  3. realworld

    Glenn Beck: 'Turn back to God' – "And if He's not available, I'm here."

    August 29, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. nick

    Given that Beck is a Mommon, these high figures are probably correct. All the Mormon leaders had to say was, "Attend or else!" and the sheep being led to the slaughter obey. Also, as an apostate, Beck is an apostle of evil and to follow him is to follow the anti-Christ.

    August 29, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. David

    I can proudly say that I didn't watch a single second of this event, though I was tempted. But there was another circus in town, so I went to that one.

    August 29, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  6. Yeah!

    To Lila August 29th, 2010 10:47 am ET
    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 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. Connie

    Whatever the number, they were all ignorant, racist fools gathered to hear the King of the Dip$hits and Queen of Grifting and Quitting.

    August 29, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Common Sense Mom

    Jesus Christ weeps when he hears what Glen Beck has to say.

    Any scholar of the Bible, any person with decency and a real understanding of the teaching of Jesus Christ knows Glen Beck is horribly wrong.....and even downright evil.

    Jesus would never say what Glen Beck says. He would never teach what Glen Beck teaches. He would never treat people the way Glen Beck wants America to treat people.

    August 29, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. Home in DC

    Here is how those of us who actually live in DC estimate the number of participants at any event on the mall: take the estimate by the event organizer and divide by ten. These folks come and go, and we still can't even vote in the nation's capital! Taxation without representation is tyranny.

    August 29, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  10. johnnyhouse

    CNN should be putting the pressure on Obama to get off his rear end and get something done.First thing is to fire all of the staff and start over.He has had two years and can not blame Bush forever.Could have saved taxpayers millions in this recession by staying home and taking the bus we heard so much about 50 years ago. Everything was suppose to be okay when all the new bills were passed to spread the wealth..Guess what- we are broke and now half of it is going to Mexican illegals and they are here doing the jobs our people use to do before all the rocking chair checks started to flow. We have welcomed about all the trouble we need here.

    August 29, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  11. KO

    It doesn't matter how many people were there. King's "I have a dream" rally is still remember 50 years later, and will be remembered 50 years from now, because King was a true visionary and hero. Beck and Palin are just self-absorbed media creatures–this rally won't be remembered past this year.

    August 29, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  12. Tony

    I wonder how prayer will solve 10% unemployment and liberate Afghanistan? That's why the saying goes "The Devil's in the Details"

    August 29, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  13. n8whit

    All of these "white" comments are racist in of themselves. I don't see the same comments being made about Sharpton's small rally down the road. Maybe all of these posters can learn something from the Christian conservatives like tolerance and not judging by skin color. And since it was the republican party under Lincoln that freed the slaves and the Christian churches who fought for equal rights for all, maybe the Democrats are scared that the conservatives are reclaiming the mantel as to a party for both the minorities, but also a return to godliness and rule of law. The rally featured Martin Luther King's niece as the speaker of the day.

    August 29, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  14. Ancient Texan

    Reports of anywhere from 87,000 to 500,000 attended a tribute to America and the founders. Know the bias of the liberal media, I'd probably go with the half a million figure. No, wait......that was Al Sharpton's group........yeah, right.

    August 29, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  15. Haren

    If all people are standing than each person with social boundary around them need at least 6 sq.ft.
    so 100 sq.ft. you have about +/- 16 people.
    Now somebody figure out sq. ft. of mall used for this rally and you will have right size of crowd.
    My only problem is with, the attendance of Dr. Martin Luther kings Niece. May be she must be suckers and get paid to attend.
    And about genuine cause for this rally? it was not Spontaneous, when people are bus loaded to attend.

    August 29, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. al

    Restoring honor begins with advocating for tolerance. I do not find much tolerance for "others" in the rantings of Glenn Beck. Perhaps I am not listening close enough to his message.

    August 29, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  17. Sean Dunn

    What hasn't Glen Beck found? He's found alcohol, paranoia, drugs, racism, extremism, mental illness, and now, suddenly, god. The common theme is “someone to blame” (and, now, credit) besides, of course, Glen Beck.

    Every generation has a hero for the lunatic fringe (like Joseph McCarthy, David Duke and Jerry Falwell) and there is a battle for this generation between Beck, Limbaugh, Palin and Bachman. Luckily, 100K wingnuts is not a political movement, not even in Alaska.

    August 29, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. Doraine Gordon

    Carol is absolutely right about Palin's son. He was in deep trouble for tampering with school buses during a winter storm. Since Palin was Governor he was allowed to leave the state and finish school in the lower 48 instead of going to jail. She never mentions her son. She didn't call his name at the rally or say anything about him. All she said was that she was there as the Mother of a son in the Service. What's up with that? They gave him big send off when he supposedly left for overseas duty and we have never heard menton of a son since. Sounds fishy to me.

    August 29, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. Haren

    Watch out we might have doctored photo from FOX news showing Obama inaugural photo as Beck's rally.

    August 29, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  20. DVA

    The most positive thing I can say about the Beck rally is that it looked like nice weather. I admit I did not watch the rally because I did not think I could learn anything more than the Klan-like preaching. I have my own religion and beliefs and don't need to told how to worship. Beck says he doesn't want the government to tell us what to eat, think, etc, and in the next breath he states: 'Here is what I want you to do". Yeah Beck you are a hypocrit in more ways than one. You worshiped drugs and the bottle and now it's religion. Same crutch needed.

    August 29, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  21. SReno

    I see there is real hatred of white people here. I guess I better get ready to defend myself, and defend myself I will...

    August 29, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  22. 21k

    how big? who really cares. out of a country of over 300 million, this group is a small minority. and getting smaller with each non-white birth. i guess some day they will all move to alaska, and live out their lives as as they truly wish: as toothless, rootin'-tootin' pioneers.

    let's instead turn to a secular government, so that it's not perceived as taking sides by ANY religion.

    August 29, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  23. Charlie-Chicago

    To all of you Democrats and liberals trashing Beck and Palin on this comment board I just have four words for you "SEE YOU IN NOVEMBER!"

    August 29, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  24. Mark

    I attended the rally Stand in the Gap in Oct 1997 and the Beck crowd wasn't even a 10th the size of that crowd.

    August 29, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. DianeRPCFL

    Who cares how large the crowd was that was watching Glenn Beck doing his best Benito Mussolini impression?

    August 29, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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