UPDATED: Brad Parscale, the chairman of Trump’s re-election campaign, has issued a statement slamming the idea that K-Pop fans and TikTok users were responsible for the low attendance at Trump’s rally on Saturday.
“Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” Parscale said in a statement. “Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVP’ed with a cell phone number, and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool. These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking. What makes this lame attempt at hacking our events even more foolish is the fact that every rally is general admission — entry is on a first-come-first-served basis and prior registration is not required.”
Parscale added that the “fake news media” warned people away from the rally because of COVID-19 and “recent images of American cities on fire” led to fewer people attending.
On Friday night, K-Pop fans and TikTok users claimed to have been behind all the empty seats at the event.
Ahead of the rally, Parscale, tweeted that there were more than a million ticket requests, but The New York Times and many reporters noted that attendance was significantly lower.
The Times reports that a plan to register for free tickets but not show up to the rally was organized by users on the app TikTok and social media accounts by Korean pop music fans. Videos with millions of views spread across social media, but were deleted after 24-48 hours in order to keep the operation secret.
“It spread mostly through Alt TikTok — we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism. K-Pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information amongst each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want,” YouTuber Elijah Daniel told the Times. “The majority of people who made them deleted them after the first day because we didn’t want the Trump campaign to catch wind.”
Mary Jo Laupp, a TikTok user from Iowa, told the Times she posted a video calling for people to register for tickets and not show up. Her video went on to get two million views. She claimed that at least 17,000 tickets in the 19,000-seat auditorium were claimed by no-show attendees.
“We all know the Trump campaign feeds on data, they are constantly mining these rallies for data,” Laupp told the Times. “Feeding them false data was a bonus. The data they think they have, the data they are collecting from this rally, isn’t accurate.”
Recently, K-Pop fans used their social media skills and online influence to drown out racist messages with the ‘White Lives Matter’ hashtag on Twitter. Using the hashtag, they posted anti-racist and sometimes nonsensical tweets to bury offensive messages.
Trump’s Saturday rally, his first since the spread of coronavirus, came under fire for originally being scheduled on Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. A week before the rally, he moved it to Saturday, saying it was “out of respect” for the holiday.