Donald Trump, small crowd, rally, Bronx
Former President Donald Trump draws a disputed “throng” for his rally in the Bronx, NY, May 23, 2024. Photo credit: © Andrea Renault/ZUMA Press Wire

Who can still believe a media company that presents propaganda in the guise of a field report?

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All the buzz about Donald Trump’s rally in New York City’s northernmost borough, and the throngs of Bronxites that supposedly turned out to cheer him, really pissed me off — because I’m a Bronx boy and I know dog crap on the Grand Concourse when I see it. 

Until I went off to college in 1974, I lived at 3388 Wayne Avenue, nestled between Montefiore Hospital and Woodlawn Cemetery (convenient!) and across the street from a splendid park known as the Reservoir Oval (it had once been a city reservoir). 

My parents grew up in the Bronx too, meeting on a stoop in 1928 when they were teenagers, and then going steady — or keeping company, in the lingo of the time — for a decade or so before finally attaining the means to marry in 1940.

Like my father before me, I played punchball, stoopball, stickball and pretty much every other kind of ball in the playgrounds, schoolyards, and streets of the Bronx.

And I kept coming home, at first for summers and then for visits short and long until 2007 — when my mother died and new tenants moved into Apt. A-21 on Wayne — and in the years since, to visit my parents’ gravesite in Woodlawn. In 60+ years I have seen much change, good and bad, deterioration and gentrification, demographic and economic shifts, war and peace in the streets of my borough. 

Through all the transformations, the Bronx has maintained its, well, Bronxness. I’d know the place, know where I was, if you were to spin me around three times and plunk me down on some corner, blindfolded in the middle of the night. I’d know how to find my way home.

And I’d know that a Donald Trump rally couldn’t draw 8,000 to 10,000 there if his life depended on it.

Yet that was the blaring New York Post headline: “Trump’s rally in deep blue South Bronx drew crowd of 8,000 to 10,000: law enforcement sources” (sources that went conveniently unnamed).

And that Post article was the link blindly provided by Olivia Reingold over at The Free Press — the popular media outlet co-founded by Bari Weiss after she resigned from her job at The New York Times — as she gushed on and on about the “sea of at least 8,000” at Trump’s Crotona Park love fest, in a column that makes Fox News come off as extremely fair and balanced by comparison.

How Big, Really?

Crowd size — like hand size, bank balance size, and penis size — has always been a thing for Trump, tracing back to his insistence that his inauguration, despite a sea of empty chairs, was better attended than that of his predecessor, photographic evidence be damned

But this particular crowd seems instantly to have taken on a special, heightened significance, the story being that Trump courageously entered the deep blue lion’s den of the dangerous South Bronx and was met with only adulation and pure love straight out of Woodstock. 

And the embrace of the South Bronx “throngs” looks for all the world like bold-face electoral writing on the wall, a fearful asymmetry. Just imagine Joe Biden drawing 8,000 to 10,000 adoring fans at a hoedown in Oklahoma or a cookout in the Florida panhandle!

So, did 8,000 to 10,000 Bronxite MAGAs actually turn out for Trump, as per the Post — or was it 25,000, as the Trump campaign claimed? Or was it NOTA?

As with his inauguration, it’s hard getting around the photographic evidence, in this case an aerial shot taken during Trump’s speech (that’s him at the podium). 

That photo shows a field with a crowd standing in a U formation around the stage, the front section about 30 rows deep averaging about 40 per row, the wings boasting about half that number between them, for a total of no more than 2,000. They are surrounded by a couple of acres of all but vacant green space, maybe a hundred more people wandering around.

That last detail is important because the Trump campaign claimed that 25,000 wanted to get in but were stopped at the gates because the park permit the campaign pulled was only for 3,500. Trump’s spin on that supposed miscalculation, in his speech that day: 

We wanted to keep it small because who knew? This is like a love fest! 

Uh, can anyone remember the last time Trump wanted to keep anything “small?”

This patently absurd claim of 25,000 would hold a drop of water if and only if there were something approaching the permitted 3,500 in the crowd in the field around the stage. Which, if you enlarge the photo and count, you can see there ain’t. 

So there was plenty of room at the rally for the purported throngs at the gates, well within the public permit limit. Which means the whole crowd size thing — the 8,000 to 10,000 attendees, not to mention the 25,000 — is mythical. I.e., bullshit. 

The Bronx did not turn out for Trump in anything like the numbers reported by the Post, and relayed around most of the media (with only a couple of exceptions) as God’s own gospel truth.

As Trump takes his victory lap and the Orange Kool Aid is pumped down America’s throat, the essential takeaway is, “Well, if the boogie-down Bronx loves him, he’s got my vote!” 

And that was the whole idea. Trump’s former attorney Jenna Ellis, who should know, summed it up nicely on X:

I’d bet there were more people from Ohio than the Bronx at Trump’s rally last night. It was purely performative theater, like much of what he does, but was it also effective? Optics are everything, and his message reached well beyond the Bronx — perhaps to Black voters in Atlanta where the debate will be soon, or in Ohio.

That Team Trump is lying (again) is no surprise. That the Murdochs’ New York Post is playing right field on Team Trump? No great surprise there either.  

Nor is it surprising that the right-wing media exploited and misrepresented CNN’s Kristen Holmes’s few words on Anderson Cooper’s show. Fox News — which, along with pretty much the whole right-wing mediaverse, has covered CNN’s coverage like a major news event — headlined her report “CNN reporter surprised by pro-trump rally…” Under that headline, Fox said that Holmes told Cooper she was surprised by the “massive support” Trump drew. 

No, she did not.

All that she actually said was, the crowd was certainly larger than Democrats would have liked, with more locals than expected. But across the Fox screen appears the bogus crowd estimate of “25,000.”

Megyn Kelly, on her Sirius XM Radio Show, headlined “MASSIVE TRUMP RALLY IN BRONX,” managed to grossly exaggerate the crowd size (of course), trash Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (naturally), and pipe in randomly chosen (just kidding) Blacks and Latinos expressing their love for Trump.

Sky News Australia — another Murdoch property — headlined its coverage “Donald Trump given rockstar reception at Bronx rally,” ensuring that the popping balloons and champagne corks could be heard halfway around the world.

And what of The Free Press delivering, via Reingold, pure Trump campaign propaganda? That, considering the purportedly neutral and independent source, strikes me as the most troubling take of the lot. 

I urge you to read the Reingold column, “Could Trump Turn the Bronx Red?” Among her various journalistic sins (ignoring the nonsensical headline):

  • She swallows the Post’s crowd size number whole, apparently without so much as glancing at any photographic evidence; and then calls it a “sea,” when a “large puddle” would be closer to the mark.
  • She claims it now takes “a family of four at least $318,000 a year to live” in New York City, linking to a report about a study that estimates how much it takes to live “comfortably.” The study’s definition of that term is so high on the hog that a single individual would need an equally eye-popping $96,000 a year to live “comfortably” in the average US locale. She makes no mention of that crucial modifier “comfortably,” conveying the impression that mere existence in NYC is impossible on less than six figures, all in service to her “mass discontent with Biden” narrative.
  • Pursuing that theme, she tries her hand at interpreting some poll numbers:

According to a Siena College poll this month, Joe Biden has lost 20 points in New York City, compared to his 2020 victory when he won 76 percent of the vote in Trump’s hometown. Meanwhile, Trump is up seven points, with Biden’s lead cut to single digits in the 2024 race for president. (emphasis added)

But, of course, Biden’s lead in NYC is not down to single digits. The poll tells us (page 5) that Biden is ahead by 26 points in NYC; his single-digit lead is statewide. Reingold has conflated New York City with the far less Democratic New York state to create the grossly false impression that NYC, as her headline teases, may soon be Trump country.

  • Reingold goes on to introduce us to a virtual truckload of rally-going Trump enthusiasts, starting with a cameo of a Chinese immigrant, John Wang, who says he’s voted for Trump twice and will be voting for him again because he is “sick of worrying about getting pushed onto the subway tracks” — comically oblivious to his hero’s notorious xenophobia, and especially sinophobia (recall “the Chi-na virus” and “the Kung Flu”), which have exposed Chinese Americans like himself to the very violence he’s so worried about.
  • And she concludes with a series of typical MAGA potshots at Democratic officeholders, “woke people,” and the anti-Trump crowd assembled in protest — finishing up with an RFK-leaning onlooker who just happens to add this helpful comment about the protesters: “It’s just wasteful energy. Trump is going to win, for sure.”

Believe it or not, these excerpts don’t do full justice to just how obscenely biased the Free Press piece is. Worse, it’s all presented not as opinion but as reportage. Again, I urge you to read it and then ask yourself what credibility is left to such a news outlet — one that prides itself on “honesty, doggedness, and fierce independence… focus[ing] on stories that are ignored or misconstrued in the service of an ideological narrative,” and then has no qualms about presenting propaganda in the guise of a field report. 

And what is behind the recent spike — of which this instance serves as a typical example — in Trump ball-washing that now seems to be a media-wide operation? 

Could it be that the polls are making Trump’s victory seem increasingly likely and the media — from the New York Post to The New York Times and, yes, The Free Press — are already thinking about access? Of course that’s a vicious circle, since their fawning coverage is no doubt boosting Trump in the polls and making his victory ever more likely.

From this Bronx boy a big Bronx cheer for the whole sordid enterprise.


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