One day after the massive “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington D.C., both organizer Glenn Beck and pundits from all over the map debated the size of the crowd.
Beck himself estimated the crowd numbering between 300,000 and 650,000 during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” Others ranged downward but generally reported that the crowded at least topped 100,000 people.
Beck said the event, meant to honor the U.S. military, was not supposed to be political, and for the most part, politics were left out of the conversation.
"The message I was trying to send was be your highest self and stand in the burning bush, stand in the fire, because that's the only thing that's going to save us," he said. "I've come to the place where I believe there's no way to solve these problems, these issues ... unless we solve it through God, unless we solve it through being our highest self, and that's a pretty tall order."
Beck also told Fox host Chris Wallace that he wanted to amend his now notorious statement that President Barack Obama is a racist.
"I have a big fat mouth sometimes and I say things, and that's not the way people should behave," Beck said. While he didn't apologize he said he regretted saying a year ago that Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people" because it's not accurate.
"I didn't understand, really, his theology," Beck added. "I think that it is much more of a theological question that he is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim."
Beck described liberation theology, which teaches that salvation for the individual is dependent on salvation for the collective through economic and social justice, as the message that was preached by Obama's ex-pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"I'm not judging (Obama) for that," he said. "I'm not demonizing it. I disagree with it."
Beck, a Mormon, said most Christians don't believe in liberation theology.
"That is a direct opposite of what the gospel is talking about," said Beck."It's Marxism disguised as religion."
Beck noted that the Founding Fathers warned that if people turned from God, the country would be at risk.
"Let's take them as people who knew what they were talking about. Let's try the whole turning back to God thing and see what happens," he said.
Meanwhile, the number debate over crowd size raged on at various websites on Sunday. What’s the big deal over numbers? Estimates are politically charged and can signal either the gravitas of a major movement in the making or a protest that has lost its steam.
In Beck’s case, though, few observers on either end of the political spectrum saw it as anything but a major event for the tea party movement and conservative politics in general. No matter what the actual numbers, Beck sent a clear signal to Washington and the Obama administration that the grassroots anger over the direction of government has to be taken seriously.
“Neither Democrats nor Republicans can afford to ignore the antiestablishment fervor displayed Saturday during Beck's rally that took on the tone of an evangelical revival,” the Associated Press reported. “Billed as a nonpolitical event, it nevertheless was a clarifying moment for those curious as to what clout an anti-Washington sentiment could have on midterm congressional elections in November.”
U.S. Park Police, burned by previous controversies, no longer makes crowd estimates. So there are no official estimates of crowd size at events on the National Mall.
So here are the leading estimates from major media:
- CBS News took a scientific approach, commissioning a crowd estimate by the company AirPhotosLive.com. The network reported that AirPhotosLive estimated the crowd at 87,000 people. But they noted that with a margin of error of 9,000, “between 78,000 and 96,000 attended the rally.”
- The NBC Nightly News estimated the number of people in attendance as “tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands.”
- The Washington Post noted that Beck told the crowd Saturday that he had heard “it was between 300,000 and 500,000." It offered no protest to that but in several stories used the phrase “tens of thousands.” Both The New York Times and the Associated Press used similar phrasing.
- Fox News in its own coverage offered that “hundreds of thousands of Americans,” at the event.
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