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

September 14, 2009 |  6:52 pm

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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