Fact Check

Was Biden's Inauguration Crowd Smaller Than Trump's?

A meme comparing crowd sizes left out a key piece of context: a deadly pandemic.

Published Jan 27, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19:  (L-R) Douglas Emhoff, U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Dr. Jill Biden and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden look down the National Mall as lamps are lit  to honor the nearly 400,000 American victims of the coronavirus pandemic at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool January 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. As the nation's capital has become a fortress city of roadblocks, barricades and 20,000 National Guard troops due to heightened security around Biden's inauguration, 200,000 small flags were installed on the National Mall to honor the nearly 400,000 Americans killed by COVID-19. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Image Via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The crowd at U.S. President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration was larger than President Joe Biden's in 2021, proving Biden wasn't popular.
What's True

Trump had more people in attendance during his 2017 inauguration than Biden had in 2021.

What's False

Biden's inauguration crowd wasn't smaller because of poor turnout. Rather, the crowd size was intentionally and significantly restricted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, we are talking about crowd sizes again.

That's because on Jan. 23, 2021, the Facebook page for political action committee Restoration PAC shared a meme comparing crowd sizes at former U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017 with that of Joe Biden's in 2021.

The meme compares side-by-side images labeled "Trump's inauguration" and "Biden's inauguration" with the caption, "They still want us to believe that Joe Biden was the most popular presidential candidate in U.S. history?"

The meme appears to be a play on the disinformation campaign promoted for months by the Trump campaign that falsely claimed he only lost the November 2020 election due to a massive voter fraud conspiracy. In reality, Biden won the election by more than 7 million votes and 74 electoral college points.

It also left out key context, namely that unlike Trump's inauguration, Biden's took place amid a surging COVID-19 pandemic, forcing tightly restricted inauguration attendance. Trump had been widely criticized for mismanaging the government's response to the pandemic that began during his presidency and resulted in a massive death toll.

Biden was taking office as the pandemic death in the U.S. reached 400,000. USA Today reported, "Tickets for this year's ceremony will be limited. In the past, members of Congress have received about 200,000 tickets to distribute to their constituents for the swearing-in. This year, they will be limited to tickets for themselves and one guest."

This is not the first time we've fact-checked a manufactured controversy over crowd sizes. In the early days of his presidency, the Trump administration pushed false claims that Trump's inauguration crowd drew, "the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe," even though information drawn from photographs, videos, and public transportation data told a different story.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more