Tonight, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke to around 12,000 people in a stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
If you weren’t actually paying attention to the crowd counts the local media did at the actual event, you might think he was speaking to a crowd three times that size.
Here’s why. Prior to the event, the Trump campaign gave out numbers ranging from 30,000 attendees all the way up to 40,000. Here are some of the reports in that vein:
YAHOO NEWS: “More than 30000 people are expected to turn out for Donald Trump's Mobile, Alabama” rally.
WASHINGTON EXAMINER: “Trump expecting over 30,000 people at Alabama event”
CNN: “As of Thursday morning, 35,000 tickets to the event have been distributed, according to the Trump Campaign.”
NEW YORK POST: “It’s going to end up at 30- to 40,000 people in Alabama,” the Post wrote, quoting Trump himself.
These are just a few of the headlines the Trump event was previewed with. Notice that they all had one thing in common – all of these reporters decided to base the crowd numbers on Trump’s claims. None of them decided to do any groundwork to figure out if the claims had any validity – which would involve, for example, surveying the community itself.
As it turned out, the rally ended up featuring around 20,000 people – around half the capacity of the 40,000-person stadium. A decent rally, sure, for a billionaire with very high name identification in a conservative part of the country. But it was nowhere near what was touted by Trump’s own campaign, which was parroted by the media.
But this wasn’t the first time Trump exaggerated his own numbers.
After his first rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump claimed “20,000” people attended his event there. The thing is, local media did their own tally, and figured closer to four to five thousand people showed up.
This is now a trend. Trump makes a wild claim about the number of people who will be attending or have attended one of his rallies, and the media republishes his claims without actually checking the veracity of the source. Later, local media does its own count and finds that Trump exaggerated his numbers, in the case of Phoenix, by four to five times; in Mobile, by possibly 100 percent.
If the media wants to do its job seriously, it will stop publishing numbers offered by a man not known for his commitment to the truth.