Glenn Beck: My Rally had "Minimum of 500,000 People"

The area around the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during a rally organized by conservative commentator Glenn Beck is seen in this aerial picture taken Aug. 28, 2010.
AirPhotosLIVE.com

Glenn Beck said today that his "Restoring Honor" rally attracted "a minimum of 500,000 people" and complained that news outlets, including CBS News, badly underestimated the number of people who showed up for the event.

"We'll never know the exact number, but anyone with eyes can see this number was in the hundreds of thousands," Beck said on his Fox News show.

CBS News commissioned the company AirPhotosLive.com to estimate the size of the rally. Using aerial pictures taken at what it deemed the height of the rally, AirPhotosLive.com said 87,000 people attended the event. The margin of error offered by AirPhotosLive.com was plus or minus 9,000 people.

Beck mocked the specificity of that figure and showed what he called an "iconic" Associated Press image of the event he said made clear that it and other estimates were far too low. Pointing at the photo, he said the rally stretched from in front of the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, an 8/10th of a mile stretch that he said was "almost completely filled."

Beck said the event attracted the sixth largest crowd ever to gather on the Mall, and said it resulted in hours of traffic jams and "two football field" long lines at subway stations. He said the mainstream media overestimates crowd sizes at speeches by President Obama yet underestimated the number of people who came to his event.

"The media can diminish the crowd side all they want, but the images speak for themselves," he said.

The area around the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during a rally organized by conservative commentator Glenn Beck is seen in this aerial picture taken Aug. 28, 2010.
AirPhotosLIVE.com

Beck spent much of his show complaining about media coverage of the event and said "nobody's telling the accurate story." He also noted that he wore a bulletproof vest at the request of his wife and showed a pair of photographs, including one he called "most beautiful photo of Sarah Palin I have ever seen."

CBS News was the only news outlet to offer an independent estimate of the size of the rally, though many figures were offered. Palin, one of the speakers at the event, said she believed there were more than 100,000 people there; Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who spoke at a separate event at the Washington Monument after the rally, suggested there were at least one million.

Palin also complained on Twitter that "insinuating MSM sheeple mustn't believe their own eyes&ears re: event's truth."

Jim McGlinchy, CBS News' Washington, D.C. Deputy Bureau Chief, said in an interview that CBS News thought it was important to get an independent estimate of the rally's size. He said he turned to AirPhotosLive.com because the company had experience making crowd estimates on the Mall.

Asked if he was surprised by the controversy over the estimate, McGlinchy said, "not really."

"I understand that every time there's a demonstration on the Mall that there's a controversy about the numbers," he said. "The park police stopped doing estimates after the Million Man March for this very reason."

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