United States President Donald Trump bragged about 1 million RSVPs to his Tulsa, Oklahoma, returns to the campaign trail. In reality, the event failed to attract more than just about half the 40,000 capacity of the venue.
It is widely believed that people who were soliciting tickets for the event may have been a part of an organized operation. This movement is said that had its start in the social media platform TikTok.
Trump tweeted “Almost One Million people requested tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma!” last week. An unnamed local official stated that they expected 100,000 to attempt to attend the rally near the arena. However, on Saturday, pre-registered attendees didn’t show up to Tulsa’s Bank of Oklahoma Center arena, which let rallygoers in on a first-come, first-serve basis. President’s team dropped the plans for him to address an “overflow” area outside the venue since there wasn’t such a thing.
A carefully planned effort was initiated on TikTok in the lead-up days to Trump’s Saturday rally. This effort urged people to register online for the free event and not show up. This is a stark contrast to the public’s perception of the platform which many views as a social media app where teens dance on camera and perform childish pranks.
“You are warriors. We had some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things. But I really do appreciate it,” Trump told his crowd. This seems like his attempt to explain the empty seats as a result of “thugs” outside the arena. However, there were no reports of violence or people blocking entrances.
Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale told CNN Sunday, “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.”
He added that “registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed 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.”
CNN previously reported that a Trump campaign official had pushed back on the suggestion that such posts played a role in the turnout, telling CNN on Saturday, “We had legitimate 300k signups of Republicans who voted in the last four elections. Those are not [TikTok] kids. It was fear of violent protests. This is obvious with the lack of families and children at the rally. We normally have thousands of families.”
The Ring Leaders
Although TikTok’s majority of users, teens, and young adults, have thought of being perpetrators, this situation is unlike that. It appears that Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old woman from Fort Dodge, Iowa, played a key role in rallying people to visit Trump’s website, register to attend the rally, and then not attend.
“All of those of us that want to see this 19,000 seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage,” Laupp told her roughly thousand followers on TikTok.
Her post was followed by what became a challenge, something popular in the internet culture, and from that point, it spread like wildfire.
K-Pop Fans Strike Again
One particular video appears to have gained the most traction. In it, fans of Korean pop music, known as K-Pop, were specifically called to take part in this challenge. K-Pop fans are known for their efforts in bringing social justice.
Earlier this month, K-pop fans supported the Black Lives Matter movement. They did so by posting pictures of their favorite artists in racist comment sections, essentially hijacking racist hashtags.
Leupp told CNN she made the initial call to action because she was upset that the event was set to take place on Juneteenth. This is a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Although disputed, many accept this to be because on June 19th, 1865 Texas, the last state where slavery was legal, officially enforced the federal ruling.
Trump’s campaign team disregarded the effort last week. Erin Perrine, principal deputy communications director for the Trump campaign, told CNN on Tuesday, “Leftists do this all the time. They think if they sign up for tickets they will leave empty seats. Not the case at all. Always way more ticket requests than seats available at a rally. All they are doing is giving us access to their contact information.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted at Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, “You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID.”
Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who managed John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, tweeted, “The teens of America have struck a savage blow against @realDonaldTrump. All across America, teens ordered tickets to this event. The fools on the campaign bragged about a million tickets. lol.”
Quotes used from cnn.com.