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The subject of crowd sizes at political events has spiked ever since the Trump administration claimed that the president’s inauguration ceremony featured the biggest inaugural crowd ever. (That turned out to be Pants on Fire-level inaccurate.)
Now, a social media post roaming around the internet claims that a photo of the National Mall during Trump’s Fourth of July "Salute to America" ceremony shows how few people attended, and asserts the webcam filming the celebration was purposely turned off because of it.
The post, shared by the Other 98% Facebook page on July 4, features a picture of what appears to be a rainy, empty National Mall, with text below that reads:
"The webcam of the National Mall was abruptly shut down without notice and has been removed from the whitehouse.gov site. Presumably to stop viewers from seeing the lack of attendees at the #TrumpParade. We are about to relive Trump’s inauguration all over again."
The page also added this caption alongside the photo: "Trump's parade was an unmitigated, absolute, outrageously expensive disaster. First of all, barely anyone showed up. The webcams on the National Mall have all been turned off without notice so no one will talk about Trump's 'crowd size'. DO NOT spread this photo around, we don't want to make our Great Leader angry."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We have no reason to disbelieve that the photo used in the Facebook post was taken during the "Salute to America" event; it appears that it was first tweeted by an account called @SpinDr. However, the image captures only a small section of sidewalk that is not representative of the actual crowd during the event.
A wide-shot photo by Getty photographer Susan Welsh shows hundreds, if not thousands, of spectators lined up with the following caption: "US President Donald Trump speaks during the ‘Salute to America’ Fourth of July event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, July 4, 2019." Several images captured by Associated Press photographers also support a large number of attendees, as does a C-SPAN live stream of the event (particularly around the 29:00 minute mark).
Although an official estimate of the event’s crowd size has not been released, images and videos from numerous reputable sources paint a very different picture than the Facebook post’s claim. While some Twitter users shared similar photos of empty sections of lawn, several news organizations and media outlets shared videos and photos of a congested event:
There is also no evidence to suggest that White House live feeds of the event were deliberately turned off to prevent viewers from seeing the crowd – mainly because it’s the National Park Service, not the White House, that controls webcams on the National Mall.
Mike Litterst, chief of communications for the National Park Service, told PolitiFact that while the webcam overseeing the National Mall is indeed offline, it has been so since September 2017.
"The webcam at the top of the Washington Monument is owned and operated by EarthCam, Inc. and placed at the top of the monument under an agreement with the National Park Service," Litterst wrote in an email. "Due to the ongoing restoration work at the monument, the camera has been offline since September 2017."
As well, Dan Scavino Jr., the White House social media director, posted a compilation video of the event that includes multiple shots that feature hundreds of spectators.
We rate this post False.
Facebook post, July 4, 2019
PolitiFact, Donald Trump had biggest inaugural crowd ever? Metrics don't show it, Jan. 21, 2017
Tweet, July 4, 2019
Getty Images, Salute to America" Fourth of July event photo, July 4, 2019
AP Images, TRUMP FOURTH OF JULY, July 4, 2019
C-SPAN, Lincoln Memorial Scenes at Fourth of July Celebration, July 4, 2019
Washingtonian.com, No, the National Mall Web Cam Wasn’t Turned Off to Hide the Crowd Size at Trump’s July 4 Speech, July 5, 2019
Heavy.com, Thousands Pack National Mall for Trump’s Salute to America [Crowd Photos], July 4, 2019
Dan Scavino Jr. video, July 5, 2019
Email interview, Mike Litterst chief of communications at the National Park Service, July 8, 2019
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