President Donald Trump said that the crowd at his Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rally Saturday broke the “all-time” record for the arena and that people were lined up outside hoping to get in. But tweets from at least one reporter who was there show several empty seats.
Jonathan Tamari, Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, posted photos of unfilled seats high in the Harrisburg’s Farm Show Arena, and spotted empty spots on the floor as well. “There are rows of empty seats here,” he noted, adding that the crowd was not at capacity.
Tamari pointed out that Trump did draw a “big and excited” crowd to the 7,000-seat venue. But it wasn’t completely packed, he said on Twitter.
Trump said during his speech that he wanted to “thank the fire marshals. They have a lot of people standing outside,” he added. “We really maxed out. We broke the all-time record for this arena. We broke the all-time record.” A number of publications reported that the arena was “almost full” or close to full capacity.
Saturday’s rally took place at the same time as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. During his speech, Trump bashed the “fake news” media for telling lies.
Trump has proven himself to be deeply concerned about the size of the crowds he draws. He was incensed after the press reported President Barack Obama had bigger crowds at his inauguration, a comparison clearly backed up by photos.
Trump also called Harrisburg “just rotting ... a war zone” during his presidential campaign. But on his 100th day as president, far from the press, he described it as a “wonderful, beautiful place.”
A Trump opposition rally was held across the street hours before the president spoke. Harrisburg’s Democratic Mayor Eric Papenfuse said the event’s goal was to “send a message to the president that he needs to be more moderate and more inclusive,” reported the Washington Post. “I hope he will look around and understand that he needs to do more than rally his supporters. He needs to listen to and speak with those who didn’t vote for him.”