On 23 October 2018, an image purportedly showing a crowd of 66,000 people cheering outside of a rally for President Trump started making its way around the internet:
Whoever created this meme did not bother to mention which rally this image supposedly represented (President Trump appeared more than a dozen such events in October 2018 alone), but we can reasonably assume that this graphic is referring to a rally that took place in Houston. For one, this meme was first posted the morning after the Houston rally on 22 October 2018. And second, the “17,000” figure roughly matches the capacity for the Toyota Center in that city where the rally was held.
The meme also mirrored comments made by right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that anywhere between 75,000 and 100,000 people had showed up to the venue:
It’s 100,000 RSVP’d for a chance to see the Trump-Cruz rally. The venue holds 17,000 or 18,000. People are lining up 24 hours in advance. Now, folks, a little common sense here. This is Texas, and remember the Drive-Bys told us that Beto O’Rourke was the answer to the mean-spirited, rock-ribbed conservative, Ted Cruz. Beto O’Rourke. He’s loved by everybody outside Texas — $38 million he raised in a quarter …
Has anybody found a hundred thousand people trying to get into a Beto O’Rourke event? You have a venue that holds 17,000 people. You have anywhere between 75,000 and a hundred thousand people who want to get in. That is not the kind of thing that happens within a political party that is losing — losing favor, losing support, losing elections.
This image, however, was not taken outside of the Toyota Center in Houston, nor does it show a crowd of 66,000 people.
For one thing, the Toyota Center is located in the center of downtown Houston, where the surrounding landscape consists of tall buildings, not mountains:
Moreover, the numbers cited in this meme (and by Rush Limbaugh) also don’t line up with reality. We investigated a similar rumor after an aerial photograph of the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship was shared as if it pictured a crowd of Trump supporters (which was likely an attempt to support Trump’s own false claim that “50,000” people were waiting outside) and found that Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo had a slightly different estimate of the size of the crowd waiting outside:
Rally going smoothly. 18 – 19 thousand inside @ToyotaCenter for rally. @houstonpolice airship providing overwatch, approximate about 3,000 folks outside enjoying rally. Thank you all participants & protestors for your peaceful & orderly participation. #RelationalPolicing pic.twitter.com/LDGnetxdwZ
— Chief Art Acevedo (@ArtAcevedo) October 22, 2018
We aren’t exactly sure where the photograph at the center of this meme was taken. President Trump has held nearly 30 rallies in 2018, a dozen of which took place in October. The landscape in this photograph appears to match the scene at Trump’s rally in Missoula, Montana, on 18 October 2018:
The attendance in Missoula was also well under the estimate provided by this meme, estimated by law enforcement officers to be about 8,000 people.
Crowd estimates are not an exact science, but we can provide a comparison to demonstrate the difference between the number of people pictured in this viral image and the number of people this meme claims to show. The following picture shows a near capacity crowd at the Milton Keynes Bowl, an outdoor concert venue in England, which has a capacity of about 65,000 people: