More misinformation about Tea Party crowd estimates

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Every time they hold an event, the right-wing media just make stuff up. Every. Time. It's almost like they're desperately trying to make the movement into something it's not.

The latest pratfall came courtesy of NewsBusters, which proudly pointed to the crowd estimate of 20,000 that Politico published for Saturday's Tea Party event in Searchlight, NV, featuring Sarah Palin, and wondered why other media outlets didn't follow suit:

Politico's Kenneth Vogel had a little higher number, saying "an estimated 20,000 tea partiers gathered for a rally in a windswept desert lot," in his March 27 report on the event.

Well, that seems legit. If Politico confirmed that 20,000 people showed up, other news outlets should do the same, right? But when you click on the Politico article, you see that the text reads a bit differently [emphasis added]:

"When we talk about fighting for our country, let's clear the air right now about what it is that we're talking about," she told a crowd estimated by organizers at 20,000 gathered for a rally in a windswept desert lot about four miles north of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's tiny hometown.

Turns out Politico didn't confirm the crowd size, it simply passed along the estimate provided by organizers.

So how many people actually showed up at the Nevada event? Less than half that estimate. From the Las Vegas Sun:

About 8,000 people were at the event as of 2 p.m., according to an estimate from Metro Police spokesman Jay Rivera. Traffic at one time was backed up about five miles from Searchlight.

UPDATED: This right-wing sleight of hand was rampant in the blogosphere, with scores of sites pointing to Politico and claiming it had independently confirmed the 20,000 number, without noting that all Politico did was pass along the organizers' (overly generous) estimates. See here, and here.

UPDATED: So much for the "Conservative Woodstock," which was how the Nevada event was being touted.

Woodstock's approximate attendance: 500,000.

Searchlight's approximate attendance: 8,000.

UPDATED: Imagine if, during the height of the anti-war movement in the winter of 2003, Al Gore announced he was going to appear at the "Liberal Woodstock," and then just 8,000 people showed up. How do you think the Beltway chattering class would have portrayed that event, as well as the movement Gore was trying to lead?

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