Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has come under pressure after claiming that hundreds of thousands of people had applied for tickets to Saturday’s rally in Tulsa, only for the event to then attract underwhelming crowds.
The Tulsa Fire Department said 6,200 people attended Saturday’s rally, and vast banks of seats were empty as the president took the stage to give his first public campaign speech since the Covid-19 pandemic put large parts of America under lockdown. The BOK Center, where the rally took place, has a capacity of up to 19,000. The Trump campaign claims 12,000 people attended the rally.
CNN reported on Sunday that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are “pissed” that Parscale promised huge crowds for the event.
Parscale on Sunday blamed the low attendance on “a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of Covid and protestors, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally.”
Parscale then appeared to threaten to rescind accreditation for journalists critical of the Trump campaign. “For the media to now celebrate the fear that they helped create is disgusting, but typical,” he said. “And it makes us wonder why we bother credentialing media for events when they don’t do their full jobs as professionals”.
Rick Wilson, an author, former Republican consultant and Lincoln Project co-founder, was critical of Parscale’s approach. “Brad broke the first rule of American politics: under promise and over deliver,” he told the Guardian in an email. “Brad’s survival now depends on the good offices of his patrons inside the Trump camp, and [Ivanka and Jared Kushner] are already signaling their displeasure to the media.”
There is speculation that the number of applicants to Saturday’s rally was inflated by young users on social media platform TikTok applying for tickets and then deliberately not attending.
“Trump has been actively trying to disenfranchise millions of Americans in so many ways, and to me, this was the protest I was able to perform,” Erin Hoffman, an 18-year-old New Yorker, told the New York Times.
The Trump campaign said protesters had blocked entrances and metal detectors, preventing people from entering the rally. However, reporters on the ground, including the Guardian’s Oliver Laughland, said they saw no evidence of such tactics.
Public health officials had warned against holding a large indoor gathering as Covid-19 cases in Oklahoma rise. The Trump campaign did not require attendees on Saturday to wear masks, and some speculated fear of Covid-19 may have stopped some supporters from attending the rally.