Hundreds of empty seats spotted at Donald Trump's first White House Christmas tree-lighting ceremony

President leads audience in countdown before First Lady turns on Christmas lights

Tom Embury-Dennis
Friday 01 December 2017 18:21 GMT
Image shows hundreds of empty seats at tree lighting festival
Image shows hundreds of empty seats at tree lighting festival (Twitter/SteveRudinABC7)

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Images appear to show hundreds of empty seats at Donald Trump’s first annual White House tree lighting ceremony.

The 71-year-old led an audience in a countdown at President’s Park late on Thursday afternoon, before First Lady Melania Trump pressed a button to light up a giant Christmas tree.

But social media users were quick to point out what appeared to be a sparse crowd during the traditional ceremony.

Steve Rudin, a weather forecaster for ABC7 News who was in attendance at the event, shared an image of the crowd size on Twitter.

“The National Tree Lighting ceremony was beautiful this evening - but hard not to notice the empty seats,” he wrote.

Mr Rudin told followers the photo was taken at 5.30pm, before Mr Trump began speaking, but said the seats “did not fill up once the show started”.

“Once the President and First Family arrived, I believe the entire place went on lock-down with very little if any movement from the outside in,” he added.

Some social media users claimed the crowd size appeared smaller than at Barack Obama’s final tree lighting ceremony in 2016.

But some Trump supporters came to the defence of the President. One user said: "Trump's supporters don't live in the Swamp. How hard is that to understand? If he had done the ceremony in Missouri, we would pack the place."

The Independent contacted the Metropolitan DC Police the Public Information Office and the US Park Police, who were all unable to confirm attendance numbers.

Mr Trump, who has taken to calling himself “your favourite President” in recent months, was left furious after images showed the audience at his January inauguration ceremony was far smaller than Mr Obama’s 2008 swearing in.

Claiming the media reports were an effort to “demean” him, he said: “We had a massive crowd of people. We had a crowd… I looked over that sea of people, and I said to myself, ‘wow’, and I’ve seen crowds before.

“Big, big crowds. That was some crowd.”

The White House has been contacted for comment.

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