On 8 August 2016, political news site The Hill livestreamed a Hillary Clinton rally from St. Petersburg, Florida, issuing a tweet linking to the stream illustrated with what appeared to be a strange mock-up photograph of a crowd:
— The Hill (@thehill) August 8, 2016
However, Hillary Clinton’s web site provided the rally’s start time as 1:30 PM on 8 August 2016, so authentic images from the rally couldn’t have been used to illustrate the tweet in question, which was posted prior to the event. So the photograph used in the tweet was one published by The Hill on 19 April 2016 as part of coverage of the New York state primary election.
Elements captured in the photograph (such as a podium, a big “H,” and two American flags) were visible in video footage of Clinton’s earlier New York state appearance
Other images from the event depicted a scene that somewhat differed from the photograph in question, but the rally in New York was certainly sizable:
News outlets and attendees tweeted out real images of the August 2016 St. Petersburg rally as it occurred:
Charlie Crist warms up the crowd before Hillary Clinton takes the stage at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg. pic.twitter.com/TSnYuFP5CB
— WUSF (@wusf) August 8, 2016
— Florida Politics (@Fla_Pol) August 8, 2016
The Hill‘s choice of odd image, coupled with circulating pre-rally photographs, led to additional rumors that Hillary Clinton’s St. Petersburg rally was sparsely attended, and The Hill had fabricated a photograph to cover that up:
— President Skroob (@Skroob_for_Pres) August 8, 2016
@thehill WHY DID YOU PHOTOSHOP THAT PICTURE?
— Demo Crat (@BlueStaterDemoc) August 8, 2016
While estimates for the number of supporters in attendance at the Florida rally are not available, it appears The Hill opted to use an old (and possibly enhanced) image from an April 2016 rally in New York illustratively before the rally began. (Few copies of the image appeared anywhere online prior to the controversy.)
Images of a small crowd look to have represented the set-up or initial seating at the Florida rally, as larger crowds appeared in images and videos taken during that event: