“Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how rallies work,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a fiery statement released on Sunday.
He added reporters were “gleefully” covering the efforts made by teenagers on TikTok to troll Donald Trump‘s first rally in months, calling them “unprofessional”.
TikTok users began sharing plans to disrupt the rally a few days before it was due, encouraging each other to sign up for a ticket but not actually attend.
Mr Parscale noted that registering for a rally did not reserve a seat for someone within the venue.
“Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPd with a cell phone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers,” He said, adding the campaign’s possible attendance numbers did not factor in the “bogus numbers”.
The campaign manager went on to state that the rally was general admission on a first-come-first-served basis, so the trolling by TikTok teens and K-pop fans would not influence the final turnout.
But this explanation does not explain what happened to the Trump campaign numbers. Mr Parscale and Mr Trump boasted on Twitter prior to the rally that the campaign received one million ticket requests. Other turnout numbers from the campaign ranged from 100,000 to 300,000 people showing up on the day.
Instead, about 6,200 people filled the 19,000-capacity BOK Centre on Saturday evening, according to a Forbes report that interviewed a fire marshal from the event, and an outdoor rally scheduled for overflow attendees was cancelled by the campaign.
The Trump campaign told The Independent it counted 12,000 times people went through metal detectors at the entrances to the rally on Saturday.
Mr Parscale’s statement about the low attendance numbers went on to blame the “fake news media for warning people away” and “protesters even blocked entrances to the rally at times”.
“It makes us wonder why we bother credentialing media for events when they don’t do their full jobs as professionals,” he added.
Protesters blocked one of three entrances to the rally for about 15 minutes, it was reported, but these people dispersed quickly after and the block occurred when a majority of attendees were already in the rally. In an effort to get more people to attend, the campaign even sent out a text message for everyone who signed up for the rally that there were still seats available.
Trump campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp appeared on Fox News on Sunday and attempted to defend the low attendance numbers at the rally.
She boasted a positive digital turnout for the rally and blamed protesters blocking entrances for why the arena looked more empty, but host Chris Wallace was not impressed by the excuses.
“He didn’t fill an arena last night,” he stated. “And you guys were so far off that you had planned an outdoor rally and there wasn’t an overflow crowd and watching the coverage and talking to (Fox News correspondent) Mark Meredith on the ground today, protesters did not stop people from coming to that rally.”
Mr Wallace added: “We’re showing pictures here and it shows big empty areas, frankly it makes you guys look silly when you deny the reality of what happened.”
The president has not addressed the rally attendance numbers on Twitter, his medium-of-choice when communicating to the public.