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Fact check: Biden CNN town hall crowd smaller than Trump Phoenix speech because it was invite-only

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The claim: The difference in crowd size at Trump’s Arizona rally and Biden’s CNN town hall shows difference in support

On July 21, President Joe Biden took to a Cincinnati stage to field questions in a CNN town hall. Days later former President Donald Trump spoke at a July 24 political rally in Phoenix. The event focused heavily on the ongoing and highly controversial ballot review taking place in Maricopa County.

In the days since, Biden critics have pointed to the events' very different crowd sizes as evidence that Trump is more popular than the president. A viral image includes side-by-side photos of the rally and the town hall.

“Trump crowd in 2021… Biden ‘crowd’ in 2021,” reads the image, shared on Facebook July 25.

Another July 25 post with the image then falsely refers to Trump as “America’s last fairly elected President.”

It’s accurate that the audience for Trump’s July 24 speech was much larger than Biden’s audience at his July 21 town hall, but that had little to do with popularity.

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Unlike Trump’s event, the CNN town hall was invite-only with limited guests.

USA TODAY reached out to several Facebook users for comment.

President Joe Biden, accompanied by CNN journalist Don Lemon, right, speaks at CNN town hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Joe Biden, accompanied by CNN journalist Don Lemon, right, speaks at CNN town hall at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

CNN town hall was invite-only

Those interested in attending the CNN town hall in the Mount St. Joseph University auditorium in Cincinnati were encouraged to submit three potential questions for Biden. CNN then selected a small audience to attend the event.

Ahead of the town hall, CNN contacted several local labor unions, colleges and business organizations to encourage members to apply.

Attendees told the Cincinnati Enquirer fewer than 500 students, teachers, business owners and local politicians were in the crowd.

During the event, CNN anchor Don Lemon told viewers that everyone in attendance was fully vaccinated.

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Unlike the CNN event, Turning Point Action allowed attendees to register online for the first-come-first-serve event in Phoenix.

The Arizona Republic reported that nearly 5,000 people attended the event in the Arizona Federal Theater.

During his first post-presidency visit to Arizona, former President Donald Trump speaks at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections!" sponsored by Turning Point Action in front of a capacity crowd at the Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, July 24, 2021.
During his first post-presidency visit to Arizona, former President Donald Trump speaks at the "Rally to Protect Our Elections!" sponsored by Turning Point Action in front of a capacity crowd at the Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, July 24, 2021.

The use of crowd size comparisons to question Biden's political validity is far from new. Throughout the 2020 presidential campaign and following Biden’s inauguration critics repeatedly presented Biden events’ small crowd size as evidence that he was less popular than Trump and didn't win the election. USA TODAY found all those claims to be false or misleading.

The crowd variations on the campaign trail were due primarily to Biden limiting attendance and mandating social distancing amid the global pandemic, as Trump welcomed all comers in traditional packed-house political rallies.

It's essentially the same dichotomy playing out in the two latest event pictures.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the difference in crowd size at Trump’s Arizona rally and Biden’s CNN town hall shows difference in support. The town hall crowd was about ten times smaller because it was invite-only. Trump’s speech in Arizona allowed anyone who registered online to attend on a first-come-first-serve basis.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim AZ rally crowd size proves Trump has more support

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