Perhaps one of the stranger media issues in the era of “fake news,” from a local standpoint, has been the continued growth of crowd estimates from then-candidate Donald Trump’s August 2015 appearance at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
A day after the unticketed event, the city of Mobile pegged attendance at around 30,000. But other unofficial guesstimates ranged from 15,000 to 20,000 — all of which were huge numbers for a political rally.
For many media members familiar with Ladd-Peebles, the 30,000 number always seemed far larger than appeared likely. As one of those in the stadium that day, it was obvious to me more than half of Ladd was empty, and there were only a few thousand people on the field in front of the media bullpen. And the people sitting in the stands were pretty spread out as well. Personally, I felt 20,000 would be a generous guess.
Still, the official 30,000 number was picked up and carried across the country. But the event estimates continue to grow three years later. CNN’s Andrew Cuomo and actress Rosie O’Donnell discussed current Trump rallies on the air earlier this week, with O’Donnell expressing doubt about the president’s ability to draw a large crowd without paying attendees. Cuomo countered that “tens of thousands” had assembled in Mobile to see him.
Speaking about that exchange on her show Tuesday morning, syndicated radio show host Laura Ingraham — a harsh critic of inaccurate reporting about Trump — declared that the event in Mobile had drawn 70,000 people.
Of course that number is ludicrous considering Ladd only holds 43,000 in the stands and has a listed maximum of about 50,000. Plenty of photos and videos still available online show clearly that half of the stadium was empty as Trump took the stage. That’s not to downplay the event, which was indeed a great turnout, but it is a fascinating example of how “fake news” sometimes becomes “fact.”
Those who have enjoyed columnist and editor Quin Hillyer’s debut work of fiction, “Mad Jones, Heretic” now have the opportunity to dig into his two follow-ups.
“Mad Jones, Hero” and “Mad Jones, Agonistes” are both available on Amazon.com, completing the “accidental prophet” trilogy about a modern-day Martin Luther who nails his religious theses to Gulf Coast church doors. The books are a satire of modern religion, politics and media.