Donald Trump’s claim that his Thursday night campaign rally broke a longstanding attendance record is true, according to the fire department official who supervised the crowd-counting.
‘Great news!’ the president tweeted after returning from the Southern New Hampshire University Arena to his New Jersey golf resort. ‘Tonight, we broke the all-time attendance record previously held by Elton John at #SNHUArena in Manchester, New Hampshire!’
Manchester Deputy Fire Marshal Mitchell Cady told DailyMail.com that Trump was right – that his crowd numbered ‘just over 11,500.’
Calling the president’s tweet ‘a topic of discussion around here,’ Cady revealed that ‘the arena staff said Elton John was around 11,300’ in April 2004.
Cady also said his office estimated that at least 8,000 people stood outside the arena in an overflow crowd area, watching the rally on jumbo TV screens.
President Donald Trump spoke to more than 11,500 people at Southern New Hampshire University Arena in Manchester, N.H. on Thursday night, later making a claim that he had broken Elton John’s attendance record; the Manchester Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed Friday that he was right
Elton John drew 11,300 people to the same venue in 2004, when it was called Verizon Wireless Arena
Trump tweeted his news Thursday night; the record attendance figure didn’t include an outside overflow crowd that the deputy fire marshal estimated at between 8,000 and 9,000
Trump tweeted this and other images Thursday night, showing an enthusiastic campaign rally audience – some of whom waited outside since dawn to get a good spot
‘We weren’t counting it,’ he said of the outside crowd, ‘but we estimated probably in the area of 8,000 to 9,000 out front.’
He and two deputies made notes Thursday night about the physical boundaries of the outdoor crowd, he said, and ‘we measured out the space this morning.’
Manchester Deputy Fire Marshal Mitchell Cady told DailyMail.com that Trump was right and his crowd numbered ‘just over 11,500’
‘Based on the calculations we use for crowd load, we came to either 8 or 9 [thousand].’
Cady said that while his department’s final inside crowd count of 11,500 is not higher than the number of Trump audience members allowed in the arena, it might be a slight under-estimate.
‘Had some more snuck in during the period when we’re trying to assess the situation and get the door closed, when we’re trying to get everyone through the mags, then maybe it’s “11,500-plus”,’ he said.
‘Mags’ is short for magnetometers, the walk-through metal detectors that U.S. Secret Service sets up to screen attendees of presidential events.
Trump’s tweeted boast Thursday night led to intense debate online about whether he was exaggerating his popularity in New Hampshire, a state he claims he lost to Hillary Clinton only because of voter fraud that was investigated but never confirmed.
Some noted empty seats in the upper reaches of the arena in photographs and video feeds of the rally.
An official at the SNHU Arena who declined to be named, saying, ‘You’re not going to get me involved in all this political fighting,’ said Friday that empty ‘nosebleed seats’ would have been offset ‘by all the people cramming themselves into the standing-room space on the arena floor.’
‘The Trump people wanted the fire marshal to let more people in, and at some point they say no,’ the official said. ‘But there were tons and tons more outside. It’s not like they couldn’t fill the place.’
Trump 2020 re-election campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Some Trump skeptics pointed out that empty seats were visible Thursday night in the upper reaches of the arena
An arena official said Friday that while some seats may have been empty, that reflects an overflow in the floor area and the fire marshal’s count would still be accurate
This photo, distributed on Twitter by the president’s social media team, shows part of the overflow crowd Thursday night – people who were turned away when the fire marshal ordered the doors closed for safety; the deputy marshal and his team calculated that it contained between 8,000 and 9,000 people in all
Trump has consistently come under fire for overstating the size of his rally crowds, and has claimed to break a rock star’s attendance record at least once before.
Before the future president arrived at a February 3, 2016 campaign rally in Little Rock Arkansas, a man Trump later identified as the fire marshal announced on stage that the crowd had broken a record set by ZZ Top in 1974.
‘In 1974 we had ZZ Top here and we set our all-time record of 11,451,’ Ralph Shoptaw said on stage. ‘I have just been informed that we have broken that record. Over 11,500. So welcome, Mr. Trump to Barton Coliseum.’
That proved to be untrue: Photos and video shot during Trump’s speech showed the coliseum sparsely populated. Local journalists estimated the crowd size at fewer than 6,000.
When Trump entered the arena and looked out over a half-empty venue, he repeated the claim that he had set a new attendance record.
‘Amazing!’ Trump began his speech that night. ‘So we broke the record, and I asked the fire marshal, “Please come up because nobody’s going to believe me. Please come up”.’
‘That’s a long-time record that we broke,’ Trump repeated. ‘Incredible.’
Trump has fudged his attendance numbers in the past; after one February 2016 rally in Arkansas, he tweeted a close-in photo with a claim that 12,000 people had set a record
This photo, shot while Trump was speaking during the same event, shows massive empty areas; a man Trump falsely claimed was the Little Rock fire marshal had come out earlier in the evening to claim the audience had broken ZZ Top’s record from 1974
Shoptaw later told DailyMail.com that he was the arena’s facilities manager, not the local fire marshal, and that the Trump campaign had asked him to make the announcement – which rocketed around the world at Internet speed.
Shortly after Trump finished his speech, he tweeted: ‘THANK YOU to everyone in Little Rock, Arkansas tonight! A record crowd of 12K.’
The president said during Thursday night’s rally that he drew 32,000 people to a November 2016 rally in Michigan that started after midnight on Election Day.
DailyMail.com attended that rally at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids, his final event before returning home to New York to await voters’ judgment.
The convention center space the Trump campaign rented held a maximum capacity of 4,200 people, Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman told DailyMail.com that night, saying it was filled to capacity more than two hours before Trump arrived.
Organizers had slid open massive divider walls to let more in, he said, estimating that the result ‘might double the number’ to 8,400.