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A 'tea party' protest photo turns out to be fake

How many people showed up on Capitol Hill to protest President Obama's political agenda on Saturday?

Tea_party_photo It depends on whom you ask.

(UPDATE: Don Surber notes here that despite the disagreement over actual marchers, there can be no disagreement over who watched the tea party march on TV: More than twice as many as watched the president's Minnesota appearance on two stations combined.)

As our colleague in Washington, Joe Markman, writes today, several conservative groups behind the march say that as many as 2 million people turned out to protest everything from Obama's proposed healthcare overhaul to the legitimacy of his election.

Others, however, say the crowd was much smaller. A spokesman for the District of Columbia Fire Department made an unofficial estimate of 60,000 to 70,000 people.

Arguments about crowd estimates are, as Markman writes, "as much a part of Washington as its granite monuments."

This one took a rather scandalous turn, however, when a photo circulated among conservatives as proof of a larger crowd was revealed to be a fake.

The photo, shown at right, depicts a crowd stretching from the Capitol nearly to the Washington Monument. It was posted on several conservative blogs and Facebook pages, with notations that it was taken on Saturday. 

But if you take a closer look, you'll see that there is no way it could have been taken Saturday because the National Museum of the American Indian is not there. The museum opened in 2004 on the east side of the Mall -- which should be in the photo's upper right. It's not -- so the photo must have been taken before then.

Several bloggers who ran the photo have begrudgingly corrected their errors.

The blog Say Anything ran a correction. Another conservative blog, Power Line, removed the picture. But in a post explaining why, the site's author took a final dig at what he called the "liberal media."

"There is no doubt that Washington Democrats are well aware of how many people turned out, even as their media outlets try to downplay the event," John Hinderaker wrote.

PolitiFact, the ever-valuable fact-checking arm of the St. Petersburg Times, has much more on the photo controversy.

Meanwhile, here's a video summarizing the day's events:

-- Kate Linthicum

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Comments () | Archives (43)

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We were aware of this late on 9-12. It was from another event. It shows why fact-checking is so important.

I have a serious question. All right, this one is fake. All those bloogers should have known it anyway, and do you know why?

Because there were no such aerial photos taken on 9/12. No helicopters in the air, no news crews flying overhead, no satellite pictures either (the satellite was conveniently out of order that day).

There are some pictures taken from rooftops, and that is all.

Why did the local news not get a bird in the air once they realised that whoa, this is bigger than anybody expected?

LA Times, this article is written with so much underlying contempt for the right. Every day things spread through Facebook that are false. Is this really the most important thing you have to report about? Also where were you last Saturday when a large group of TEA Party patrons gathered outside the Federal Building on Willsher?

Instead of reporting on rumors why don't you do a story about why each side feels the way it does about the healthcare debate, economy, etc.. I bet you that if you did that you would get quite a bit of attention.

The # of people on Washington isn't the point. The point is that those of us that have felt outcasted for so long now feel like we have a voice, and that there ARE other people out there that think the same way we do.

Also I want to let everyone know what the TEA Parties are about, they are about ending government corruption and bringing the government back to the constitution and what the founding fathers wanted when they formed this country. Yes there are also factors involving healthcare and other issues but the main goal is the make the government accountable to the people. I think we can all agree that there is WAY too much corruption in Washington, any is too much.

OH and BTW, the TEA Party is just beginning.

The pic is from the promise keepers rally several years ago.

I find you association of the adverb to the correction process to be curious and presumptuous. Good rule, and you probably know it - adverbs kill.

You lie!

Right. You people can't take it, can you? That's not the only photo showing thousands of people at the 9-12 Tea Party. And you think 60,000 to 70,000 is a small number to show up at a demonstration? Do your reporters have a mental age of 12?

I saw live pictures and let me say this..Obama is in trouble..I watched the whole thing and the concerns are both dems and repubs..and people want to know if all these savings from waste can be made why don't they do that and prove it before they change 1/6 of our economy.

there was one helicopter that flew over. I know I was there.

The fact is, all corrpution in DC today is due to Obama and his left wing liberal fan club. They are the ones trashing the Consitution and biasing things hard left and socialist. Only by restoring conservative, God-fearing values of hard work will the republic be restored

Of course this picture is not of the 9/12 rally.

First, the sun is shining in the picture given the shadow of the Washington monument. 9/12/09 was total overcast all day.

Second, the time the alleged rally picture was taken is roughly 1030-1100 (The largest sundial in Washington). At that time, the rally goers were marching down to the Capital and not gathered near the Washington Monument. So had the sun been shining on 9/12/09, it would still have been able to show this alleged picture was false.

Both Right and Left need to ensure they publish facts. However, failure to publish an accurate picture does not negate the FACT that thousands of average Americans - both on the Left and the Right - showed up to show their angst at this government.

Question: When was the last Administration that six months into its first four years had such a huge demonstration against it on the Mall in DC? I could be wrong, but it is the first in my memory. What does that say rather than argue how many attended the rally? Obama and this Congress are in trouble.

You liberals have every right to be scared. Have you seen the security photo/video of the's everywhere, and it's a whole lot of people. The country is basically right of center...and you all are still drifting to the left. Not hard to figure out what's coming. You're only seeing the tip. It's just starting to peek over the horizon and it's big. Buckle up.

If you are interested, try here:

I now have a subject for my podcast tonight! Thanks Tea-Baggers! Keep up the great comedy!

Hahaha OOPS! LOL

I wonder if any of the actual photos taken on 9/12 showed even one non-white Teabagger in attendance? Whoops, can't find a single one. Better fire up the Photoshop!

The # of people on Washington isn't the point. The point is that those of us that have felt outcasted for so long now feel like we have a voice.

by KW

But you do have a voice, and always have. It's called a ballot.

Wow, it's amazing how people on the far right fringe rally around a fake photograph, and then when it is exposed as a hoax attack the messenger. Come on people, even the loony liberals in the Bush years didn't threaten to overthrow the government, but now we have to put up with you people bringing your guns to town hall meetings and saying "OH and BTW, the TEA Party is just beginning." Of course you back off when you realize you're getting people's attention. If you people wanna regain power in three years you better take a page from the liberals and try and move towards the mainstream.

Except it was perfectly FINE to spend money on killing brown people Emily.

Yes, this one photo was a hoax, no doubt it was put into the mix of legitimate photos by a person on the left trying to create a "scandal". Everybody there had their own photos as evidence of the crowds.

Yep, the liberals are running scared from large masses of uneducated, unemployed, overweight white people protesting the federal government. Shades of the Civil War???

Got to keep the yellow, brown and black people down. Keep your agrarian society and mock scientists.

Woohoo anti-intellectualism for the win!!!!

To KW: I agree with you on the point that any corruption within government is too much...but did our goverment and policies just get created yesterday? Were the existing practices and a good portion of the policies and people not in office during the Bush administration? Of course. For ALL those of you that keep insisting that things are scarily horrible today...there is no way to insist that is the case without putting 95% of the blame on the 8 years Bush spent in office, as Obama just recently came into office and is just now starting to put into effect his changes.

The financial woe's started before Obama came into office, the federal deficit grew tremendously during the Bush administration, and if left alone and not changed in any would continue to grow. The Bush administration passed the Patriot Act that included elements that gave certain government personal unheard of ability to 'secretly' do to Americans a great range of things!! Immigration policies, although discussed, remain unchanged. Healthcare, although discussed, remains unchanged. So everything that is still happening today with relation to all of the above is still a direct result of Bush Administration policies!!!! Get real people. The fact that you try to ignore that or that you speak as if though everyone else is too ignorant to notice it is absurd. The majority of self thinking Americans will not be swayed by all of the vague negative muck.
But I'm certain there are a lot of Americans out there with a sheep type mentality who will blindly follow whomever is willing to scare them into I'm sure you'll keep preaching to them. I pity those people and I hope they find their way to reality and self independence soon.

You don't see a lot of blacks in public protesting President Obama's policies. We fear hate and attacks of all kind. I'm a democrat but I didn't and will never vote for Barack Obama. I see him as not trustworthy, nor qualified for president. I can't say this to most blacks, I would be ostracized among my own race. Uncle Tom would be the name they'd call me. Maybe you won't believe this but it's true for me and many other blacks. The demos will continue to race as the reason for negative comments about Obama's policies because they think it works.

Magnificent. It seems the greatest accomplishment of this gathering was to show how marginal and out-of-touch these folks are... it's also been highly entertaining watching Fox News suddenly treat even the nuttiest of protesters like patriots after 8 years of insults and name-calling over the anti-war protests, which attracted over a quarter-million folks at their peak.


See, this is the thing. "Instead of reporting on rumors..." See, this isn't a rumor. This is disproving something that was depicted as fact.

All those lies on facebook? Those are conservative lies. Just as this "rumor" was. Yet, as usual, being caught out is immediately downplayed. "RUMOR!"

"OH and BTW, the TEA Party is just beginning."

See, that's the problem. America has enough "I don't want to believe the truth" crazies as it is. =(

Why is this not surprising? Right-wing nutjobs continue to be exposed as nothing more than a bunch of ignorant frauds. This lends further proof that their so-called "cause" is marginal and irrelevant. To attempt to significantly overstate their popularity is a clear indication that they are not getting through to the vast majority of reasonable Americans with their shrill hysterics. The President is not listening and he doesn't have to since they didn't vote for him. Sound familiar Bush lovers?

It is so amazing that we see that this country has really not changed from the Racially explosive time of the past. As much as we hated the acts of President George W. Bush, it seems that a portion of this country would perfer Bush to Current President Obama. I have seen comparisons to Hitler, Socialist Leaders, Santan, etc. but the only people to call Bush the Devil were in the Middle East.
I can truly say that we can see where we really stand as a country, United to an extent. I believe that if Joe Biden had been voted as the President, we would not see the level of disrespect to the office of Presdent. In all reallity, it seems that white america would rather Obama to be cleaning the White House then leading from it. He should be limited to Community Leadership then been leader of the most powerful country in the Free World. Racism is alive and well and has awaken from it coma. White America (Republican and Democratic)would rather defy in every way each and every step forward President Obama takes.
He wants to regulate Banks, he is a Socialist
He wants Universal Health Care, He trying to control or heatl care.
He wants to regulate Wall Street, He is against Capitalism.
We must not forget that President Obama took office on Jan 20, 2009. In the words of Repulican Canidate John McCain, Our economy CRATERED in 2008 under the "watchful eye" of George W. Bush. Bailouts, Unemployment, Foreclosures, plunging Stockmarket, all under George W. Bush.
Final words, Let the President undo the horrors that he was given. He did not do it, but is trying to fix it. we are all americans from the darkest to the lightest, the Black to the White and all in between. Let us be United not only geographically but as a people, ONE NATION, ONE PEOPLE. No matter what we are all americans, And we should act as such.

Oh my. No wonder I remain a Liberal. No matter how many words Goober Gopper Stalinists use to try to spin the creation date of this picture to the year of our Lord, 2009, it will always remain on the internet -- impossible to erase --, a reminder that the friends of their rudderless leadership, i.e., Beck, Rush, and Steele, are so fundamentally conservative that they had to dig out a very old picture from the museum's catacombs. This is because their unreliable, pot-smoking, bribed and bussed-in base turned out at the mall in numbers so feeble that it did not meet their expectations. Everyone agrees that the turn out was an epic failure.

Note that the Christian Goober leadership did not immediately issue a call for repentance over that photographic lie. For their spokespeople, lying is always good as long as the lie is in the service of bringing in more money to racist and Stalinist Obama-haters.

It's time for those who love America as I do to support the president by encouraging, and praying for, him in his tireless push to fix Bush's mistakes that Rightwingers instead want to pepetuate.

OMG! 60,000-70,000! That's 0.0259259% of the population! The Tea Party rulez!

KW, you made my evening! It's so nice to see a right-winger try to argue that the facts don't matter. Hey, it's what you people have been doing for years now, so why not keep trying?

Typical lying right-wing extremists...the only good republican is a felon.

Well, my mother taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. A lie is a lie because is is a lie. You can't claim it's okay because the liberal media forced you to do it.

So show the real photo. I watched on CSPAN for 3 hours and only could see from the front view to back. To me the crowd looked full and went all the way back to the monument. Looked like a large group to me. The "fake" photos are FUD to discount the turn out. I'm still waiting for someone to post a real aerial photo of Saturdays protest.

The very name of the protest, "Tea Party" says everything of how completely out of touch these people are with reality. The "Boston Tea Party of 1773" was a protest against the unrepresented taxation by Britian imposed on the original colonies.

"The colonies refused to pay the levies required by the Townsend Acts claiming they had no obligation to pay taxes imposed by a Parliament in which they had no representation."

"King George III and his government looked to taxing the American colonies as a way of recouping their war costs. They were also looking for ways to reestablish control over the colonial governments that had become increasingly independent while the Crown was distracted by the war. Royal ineptitude compounded the problem. A series of actions including the Stamp Act (1765), the Townsend Acts (1767) and the Boston Massacre (1770) agitated the colonists, straining relations with the mother country. "

The reality is that American's taxes are at the lowest since 1942. And we are hardly unrepresented.

The appropriate time might have been when George Bush created his Iraq "war". That might have made sense.

Today's "Tea Party" movement claimes "these "tea parties" were a true grassroots protest of irresponsible fiscal policies and intrusive government" yet it was in the previous eight years of the presidency that we saw irresponsible fiscal spending. Bush began his presidency with a negative deficit. The Debt Held By Public had been decreased over the past five years. He then returned the deficit to negative territory, increasing the public debt by 3 Trillion, including adding 1 Trillion in the last months of his presidency. (

The problem with these "Tea Party"ers may very well be that they are so completely out of touch with reality. There is the real danger, that the rabbil class actually has good intent for all the wrong reasons and all the wrong facts. Full of discontent, they grasp as anything they can that sounds good and justifies their out of touch feelings.

Their detailed understanding of early american history and the recent trends in the Federal deficit is only outdone by their total ignorance of economics. Every economist, every senator, and every congressman knows that the only solution to a massive recession, bordering on a depression, is government spending. It is the multiplier effect of government spending that stimulates the economy under these conditions. As my econ professor said, "If the government must, it pays people to dig holes and fill them back up again." Why? Because they spend the money they earn on goods and services, restarting the economic engine. While many may disagree with how the money was infused into the economy, it is clear that it was required. It's the flow of money that counts, not what's under the matress. Der..... (A $250 stimulous check to taxpayes was simply lame. Try like a $7,000 stimulous check to taxpayers. Now that would have stimulated the economy. And with the average credit card debt at $10,000, the banks would have gotten most of it anyways. Then tax the #$@$ out of the CC companies charging 40% while borrowing at 5%. And there goes the dept, a nice neat circle. )

Their message is to push the moderates to the left inorder to claim themselves to be moderate. The danger is in believing that because some government legislatures are wrong that therefor the Tea Party movement is right. That pork barrel politics is wrong, doesn't make these guys right. We don't drive on the right shoulder of the road to avoid the bushes on the left shoulder. And we don't "throw the baby out with the bath water."

I certainly believe that our legislators, in both parties can be corrupted by big business lobbiests. I certainly believe that a government, any government, has a tendency towards inefficiency. There is no doubt that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But a free market only functions because we have a government that enforces the contracts and regulations that allow it to function. No taxes means no roads, no courts, and no public services like police and fire. The limited government that they propose is an ineffective government, not a better government. The "free market" that they propose is a free market for big businesses and monopolies only, not a free market that supports small business and small business innovation.
There are problems to be solved in America, but these guys aren't the solution. The "Tea Party Patriots" are just another problem.

All I saw were pictures of the President of the United States mocked up to look like Hitler, signs comparing him to a socialist/communist, and one charming woman claiming that "muslims were taking over the country".

As a former republican, what I see is a bunch of racist, anti-government, anti-tax, AK-47 toting lunatics taking over the the party.

George Bush I would have never tolerated this nonsense. Laura Bush doesn't tolerate this nonsense. Why does the party establishment seem to think this is okay. I really do believe there is a faction of the Republican party that will not rest until Obama is dead. The more I see from these "tea baggers", the more I see the undermining of our Constitution and our society. I haven't agreed with Carter on many of his stands, but I have to give it to him on this one. Racism has infested the Republican Party.

The British used to show up at Colonial meetings with bayonettes and guns to shut us up. Now these guys are doing the same, and claiming it's part of their Second Amendment Rights. People like Sean Hannity publicly state that the President is out to destroy America, and claim Freedom of Speech.

I think someone needs to point out to Hannity and Beck, as well as others like them, where the line of Free Speech ends, and outright Sedition begins. It's in the Constitution too - you just have to read the damn thing.

I will never vote Republican again, as long as they take their orders from the KKK.

60,000-70,000 people showing up at a rally in D.C. is considered nothing. Half a million show up for anti-abortion rallies each January, and the press won't even report it. A quarter million showed up for the Labor Day concert -- but you didn't hear that one get any news. 50,000 people showed up for the "Black Family Reunion" on Sept. 13, and it barely registered (even in "The Afro-American," the black civil rights newspaper).

Maybe in Podunkville, AnywhereState, 70,000 people on the lawn is a big deal. But in a city where rallies occur on the National Mall every single weekend during summer months, that's small potatoes.

how bout showing a real photo then ?

Who's lying now???!!! Republicans!...can't live with them...can't believe them either....Bush...Cheney...Libby...the list goes on and on and on and....

Is anyone surprised by this? "Conservatives" (most of whom aren't conservative at all) lie almost constantly these days. Obama wants to establish death panels; Obama is a Kenyan/Indonesian/Muslim whatever; Intelligent Design is a legitimate theory; 9/11 was an inside job; blah blah blah.

Oh yeah, and family values politicians are faithful to their spouses.

There must have been so much people that they have to use a fake photograph to show how many people really showed up..... NOT!!!!! LOL OOPSY AGAIN!!!

I wonder if the Tea Baggers understand that the Boston Tea Party was about no taxation without representation, specifically they didn't have a seat in parliament. Now, perhaps if they lived in D.C. and were being taxed without having a seat in Congress or the Senate.... Also, I wonder why the TeaBaggers did not protest when Bush was running up the deficit after inheriting a surplus? I imagine that is because they agreed with his spending - tax cuts for the rich and Iraq War spending, which also is a form of big government. And then why don't they say that they disagree with the type of spending but acknowledge the reckless spending by Bush.

I am not saying this picture is real or not but I was at this protest and I can tell you there was a helicopter that flew over us twice.. That much of this story is not true.

60,000-70,000 is a poor showing at a national rally. I have been to bigger Grateful Dead shows. The Pro choice rally I attended there in 1988 had 500,000 people.

So somewhere between 60,000 and 1,500,000 protest the current tax politics...
Let me put in Dick Cheney's words: "So?" - "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion."


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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