I hadn’t planned on responding to the entire Tea Party attendance controversy, but since Media Matters is using information I was responsible for to smear Michelle Malkin, I figured I’d set the story straight.
Estimates for the 9/12 march ranged from the “tens of thousands” all the way up to two million. Yes, two million.
While I was attending the rally, I asked a police office how big the crowd was. He said they were estimating it was at 1.2 million people. When I asked a Park service employee, that person told me they thought that around 1.5 million were attending. Perhaps they had some basis for those numbers or perhaps they were just making wild estimates. Either way, after FreedomWorks misquoted ABC’s report on stage, that number was mangled and passed along to me at 2 million. That seemed to be in line with the previous estimates I’d heard at the rally. Had I been at my computer, I would have double checked the estimate and learned that ABC never put out that number. But, since I wasn’t, I tweeted it out on my 22,000 follower Twitter account and it was picked up all over the place.
We still don’t really know how many people were the 9/12 rally. The DC fire department put the number at between 60,000 and 70,000 people. However, other credible estimates put the number 800,000 plus.
Had Media Matters asked me, I’d have been happy to tell them that I didn’t just make the number up for fun. However, they just ran with an unconfirmed story — just like I did — and, also like I did, they got important parts of it wrong. A mistaken tweeted estimate has now been turned into a “2 million protester lie” and that story is now being thrown around the left side of the blogosphere like mine was thrown around the right.
Bottom line: I tweeted a mistaken estimate instead of writing an entire misleading story about it. I corrected the record instead of trying to claim that a mere mistaken crowd estimate was part of some sort of diabolical “misinformation campaign.” I’ve been wrong before and I will be wrong again. There’s a difference between an error and a lie – figure it out, Media Matters.