In the build-up to his first rally in months, Donald Trump’s campaign boasted that one million people had registered to attend. In the end, just over 6,000 turned up.
The rally, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, was billed as a comeback, a chance to kick-start Mr Trump’s 2020 election campaign and demonstrate the enthusiasm his supporters still have for the president as his poll numbers slump.
On the night, however, Mr Trump was greeted with rows of empty chairs. More than two-thirds of the 19,000 capacity BOK arena was vacant. An outdoor overflow area set up outside in anticipation of the large crowds was closed down when it was clear it would not be filled.
Andrew Little, the Public Information Officer for the Tulsa Fire Department, told Forbes that a fire marshall at the event had counted turnout at 6,200 people. The Trump campaign disputed that number, saying they counted 12,000 people through the metal detectors at the venue.
The event is likely to have had a dampening effect on the notoriously crowd-sized obsessed president and his campaign.
While some have speculated that the coronavirus may have kept people away, another theory for the outsized expectations was an alliance of teenage TikTok users and K-Pop fans.
Users of the social media site and fans of Korean pop music claimed to have registered hundreds of thousands of tickets for the rally with no intention of attending.
Brad Parscale, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, tweeted after the event: Radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with @realDonaldTrump supporters at the rally.”
“They even blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering,” he added.
“Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York wrote in response.
In a rambling speech to the crowd that lasted for one hour and 40 minutes, Mr Trump largely brushed aside concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. In one of the most controversial comments of the night, he claimed that he had asked for testing to be slowed down because the number of confirmed cases too high compared to other countries.
“Testing is a double-edged sword. We've tested now 25 million people. It's probably 20 million people more than anybody else. Germany's done a lot, South Korea's done a lot,” he said.
"Here's the bad part: when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down please."
The US has at least 2.2 million confirmed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at least 119,000 deaths.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies