On Sept. 12, a group called FreedomWorks – with a little help from Glenn Beck at Fox News – organized a "taxpayer" rally in DC to protest the “irresponsible government takeover of our nation’s healthcare, devastating new energy taxes, and trillions of dollars in red ink.” When the mainstream media didn't pick up on the story, several conservative bloggers began distributing a photo of protesters clogging the DC mall.
Problem: the photo is from a totally different event. Politifact, a nonpartisan journalistic fact-checking organization, checked in on Monday with Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the DC Fire and Emergency Department. Piringer "unofficially" estimated that between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up. He added that the photo circulating conservative sites was almost certainly not from this year. Here's Catharine Richert of Politifact:
"It was an impressive crowd," Piringer said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol the crowd "only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street," he said. Yet the photo showed the crowd sprawling far beyond that to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets. There's another big problem with the photograph: it doesn't include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth St. and Independence Ave. that opened on Sept. 14, 2004... That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn't show the "tea party" crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.
The size of the rally is a contentious issue among many conservatives, who believe that the mainstream media has intentionally ignored so-called "tea-party" protests. "I have no doubt that Washington Democrats are well aware of how many people turned out, even as their media outlets try to downplay the event," John Hinderaker wrote on the conservative blog Power Line. "Ultimately, those media efforts will have little effect, just like the media's silly attempt to portray anti-big government voters as 'racists,' etc."
Since Politifact weighed in on the issue, many blogs – including Power Line – have pulled the photo.
In an open letter to the inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, has called for an “an immediate and thorough investigation” into the activities of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN.
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