Size matters to President Trump. From hyping the grandeur of his signature border project (“I will build a great wall”) to limning his own attributes (“My fingers are long and beautiful”), issues of scale and proportion are never very far from his thinking.
This became abundantly evident on Inauguration Day when then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer contested the size of the event’s crowd. So began a regular theme of the administration, its supporters and its detractors — the duel between fact and spin, assumption and verification.
And that collision helps explain why the pro-Trump Internet keeps mistaking photos of Cleveland sports fans for the president’s backers.
Following Trump’s Phoenix rally Tuesday evening, a picture started circulating on Twitter purporting to show massive crowds at the president’s campaign-style event. According to HuffPost, one account, @TEN_GOP, a self-described “Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans” with more than 73,000 followers, grabbed the image and fashioned it into a now-deleted tweet:
AZCentral.com reported the post was retweeted “800 times and liked more than 1,000 times.” The Daily Beast said Wednesday that conservative pundit Ann Coulter and other right-wing personalities retweeted the item.
“Please look at this! The Beatles never had crowds like this! This is US! This is USA! This is Trump!” one user wrote, according to the Daily Beast.
But here’s the problem: The image was not from the Phoenix Trump event — or any Trump event.
In reality, the massive crowd was photographed on June 22, 2016, in Cleveland, where fans came out to celebrate the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship. The images capture fans — many wearing Cavs wine and gold jerseys and T-shirts — milling about as LeBron James, Kevin Love and other players inch by in a motorcade.
The mistake became evident Tuesday night. Most of the retweets were deleted. @TEN_GOP apologized, and the entire account was deleted by Wednesday.
“And frankly, anyone who is at all familiar with Phoenix should have known better. It’s a desert, people,” AZCentral.com chided readers Wednesday. “Who really thought Phoenix had that much green?”
But this is not the first time the championship parade has been mistakenly hijacked as an illustration of Trump’s supporters.
Last August, Breitbart wrote up a Trump campaign rally in Jacksonville, Fla.; the piece — “Trump’s Jacksonville Rally Draws 15,000″ — was topped with a different photo from the NBA championship celebration. After MediaMatters called out the website, Breitbart swapped the image and put a correction on the piece: “A photograph that was incorrectly attributed on social media to the rally in Jacksonville has been removed.”
But the very next day, Gateway Pundit published “WOW! Look at MASSIVE CROWD at Trump’s Town Hall Event in Portland, Maine.” Again, according to MediaMatters, the picture accompanying the article was a third overhead shot from downtown Cleveland on parade day.
Some of the confusion between Cavs fans and Trump supporters is the work of keyboard-pounding provocateurs. One Twitter user in particular, a Columbus-based social media marketer named Chris McNeil, has purposely shot out parade images to Trump fans and related media outlets, baiting them into the mistake.
“People get blinded by their own agendas easily I’ve learned,” McNeil told the Daily Beast this week. “Even the comments from my followers give it away. I don’t try and keep up the muse too hard. That’s what makes it funny to me.”
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