This morning on Fox -- which has been notably cool to the Egyptian pro-democracy protests -- analyst Barry Rubin cast doubt on the size of the crowds in Egypt. Here's what Rubin, director of the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center, said:
This regime has been facing demonstrations for about a week, which are smaller proportionately than you would think from the reporting. The regime does not have to fall. It still has the army and the institutions intact. When the White House says it wants a transition, and calls basically for the fall of a U.S. ally in a chaotic situation, this sends a signal to every country in the world, that the U.S. is not going to be a reliable supporter for them. We should not assume that this regime must fall.
Rubin didn't elaborate on his assertion about the misreporting of the crowd sizes, so I called him Monday afternoon.
Rubin told me he did not mean to say that the crowd numbers had been misreported -- but rather that "it's not an overwhelming mass of people" that's too vast for the government to handle. "It's smaller than you think," he said.
"I'm not in any way saying it's not really significant. The fact is, when there's a relatively low risk of repression, we're talking about tens of thousands of people, not hundreds of thousands," Rubin said. "The number of Cairo residents that have been involved is relatively small."
While judging the significance of the size of protests is inherently subjective, many major news organizations have reported that there have, in fact, been hundreds of thousands of protesters. Here's how the New York Times described the scope of the protests Sunday:
Over the past several days, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians -- from indigent fruit peddlers and doormen to students and engineers, even wealthy landlords -- poured into the streets together to denounce President Hosni Mubarak and battle his omnipresent security police.
And this BBC map of protests shows confrontations with police in major cities around the country.
Rubin's original comments come at about 4 minutes into this video: