A few days ago, President Donald Trump boasted on Twitter that almost a million people had requested tickets for his campaign rally, the first one he’s held in months due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, the reality was that only a few thousand showed up, leaving the president speaking to a largely empty stadium. He had gotten trolled.
The culprits were apparently teens on TikTok and K-Pop fans, which are claiming they launched a massive effort in the days leading up to Trump’s rally to register for hundreds of thousands of free tickets and then not show up. Many users uploaded posts on TikTok and other social media platforms showing their confirmation and then adding that they couldn’t go for a variety of perfectly acceptable reasons.
One user, for instance, said they couldn’t go because their dog’s goldfish’s funeral was that day. Other reasons for reserving tickets but not attending included mopping windows and vacuuming the beach.
Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother from Fort Dodge, Iowa, was one of the TikTok users who encouraged users to troll Trump. Laupp was upset that the president was hosting his rally on Juneteenth, although organizers later changed the date. Laupp’s video has more than 700,000 likes on TikTok.
“I recommend that all of those of us that want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing there alone on the stage,” Laupp said in her TikTok post.“What do you say?”
According to the New York Times, the Tulsa Fire Department scanned 6,200 tickets at the BOK Center, a stadium that has a 19,000-seat capacity. The number of tickets does not include staff, media, or those in box suites.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had specifically tweeted about building the overflow stage and had said it would be the first time the president spoke to people that couldn’t get into the event. Nonetheless, because of the low attendance, the Trump campaign scrapped plans to have the president speak to an overflow area outside the arena, because, uh, there wasn’t one.
The Times reported that many users deleted the posts on TikTok and other platforms where they talked about registering for free tickets in order to conceal their plan and keep it from spreading to the mainstream internet.
Of course, the Trump campaign is not acknowledging being completely trolled. Parscale denied that “leftists and online trolls” affected the rally. Parscale instead blamed poor attendance on, whom else, the “fake news media,” and lots of other things.
“The fact is that a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of COVID and protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally,” Parscale told Politico.
Per Politico, Parscale said that the online RSVP process for rallies helps weed out “bogus numbers” and that tens of thousands had been discarded for the Tulsa rally.
Hosting the rally in the middle of a pandemic had worried local officials and also prompted an Oklahoma Supreme Court case. Two local residents had asked the court to make the rally attendees wear face masks, which have become a politically contentious issue in the U.S., even though they’re widely believed to slow the spread of the virus. The residents had also requested that attendees maintain social distancing. The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied the request on Friday.
People attending the rally largely went without masks and did not observe social distancing guidelines. Before the rally, it was revealed that six Trump campaign staffers that were part of the advance team for the event tested positive for coronavirus. The staffers were immediately quarantined.
Although the Trump campaign has come up with a lot of reasons for poor rally turnout, they just don’t appear to be sticking. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said it best in a tweet to campaign manager Parscale, who was blaming the “radical protesters” and the media for hundreds of thousands of people not showing up.
“Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID,” she said. “Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud.”