Trump tour has lukewarm turnout in Houston as Bill O’Reilly disputes reports of low attendance

Ex-president and former Fox News personality continue arena speaking tour

Alex Woodward
New York
Sunday 19 December 2021 17:26
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A traveling “History Tour” featuring former president Donald Trump and ex-Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly saw another lower-than-expected turnout on its Houston stop.

The Houston Chronicle reported that “top sections were blocked off” inside the Toyota Center in downtown Houston on 18 December, “and there were still plenty of seats available” well after the show was scheduled to begin.

Mr O’Reilly disputed reporting that showed empty seats as the event was underway. A statement after the event from the former president, shared by spokesperson Liz Harrington, included the same photo from Mr O’Reilly’s tweet.

Mr Trump arrived roughly two hours after the scheduled start time, the newspaper reported. Mr O’Reilly – who left Fox News in 2017 following settlements with women who accused him of misconduct – told the crowd that the former president was delayed because of bad weather.

“A great evening in Houston, Texas – thank you!” Mr Trump said in a statement after the event.

The Houston stop follows reports of underwhelming turnout in Florida, where Mr Trump, who repeatedly discussed crowd sizes and inflated numbers during campaign events, boasted about expecting “big crowds” for the tour.

Thousands of seats were unsold for the tour’s stop at the Amway Center in Orlando, according to data reviewed by The Orlando Sentinel.

Before the event, 5,406 of 8,700 available tickets were sold, and the stadium’s capacity did not include “vast swaths of the upper bowl covered with a tarp before the event started,” the newspaper reported.

The Amway Center’s listed capacity for the setup used for the “History Tour” is typically between 12,500 and 17,000, according to the newspaper.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that “many seats remained empty” at the “cavernous” FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida, where "the top level was closed and ticket buyers were 'upgraded' to the lower bowl."

“First two Trump History shows went great,” Mr O’Reilly said following the Florida stops.

“Ticket sales for all 4 shows about 30,000 with Houston and Dallas next weekend still selling. Gross receipts for first show: two million dollars,” he said.

The former Fox star accused media reports of “outright lying about the tour,” though his attendance numbers track with reports showing thousands in attendance as well as thousands of empty seats.

The pair is scheduled to appear in Dallas on 19 December.

Tickets for the events range from $100 up to several thousand dollars for VIP packages.

In July, Mr O’Reilly predicted that the tour – billed as “a series of live conversations” to “discuss exactly how things were accomplished” in the Trump administration – would be “one of the most lucrative of all time.”

Following a report in Politico alleging that organisers struggled to sell tickets for the events, Mr O’Reilly threatened to sue the reporter who wrote the story.

The Independent has requested comment from a spokesperson for Mr Trump.

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