Glenn Beck Rally Draws Questions About Crowd Size

How many people actually attended his evangelical-like gathering on anniversary of MLK speech?

How many people attended Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Saturday? It depends who you ask.

Organizers estimated the crowd size at 500,000. Domenico Montanaro, an off-air NBC News political reporter, tweeted that a National Parks Service official estimated between 300,000 and 325,000 had turned out for Beck’s evangelical-like gathering on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. (He noted that the agency no longer gives out official estimates; according to CBSNews.com, the Park Service “stopped counting crowds in 1997 after being accused of underestimating the size of the Million Man March in 1995.”)

Citing NBC, the New York Times reported 300,000 were “stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.” The figure was picked up (and subsequently blared) by the Drudge Report.

Fox News characterized the crowd as “huge” and reported “thousands in attendance.”

Beck had predicted at least 100,000 would show up at an event that featured speeches from Beck, Palin and a tribute to St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols. Organizers of the rally had a permit for 300,000.

"I have just gotten word from the media that there is over 1,000 people here today," Beck joked.

"We are humbled that you are here," he continued. "The reflecting pool holds about 200,000 people. This field back here holds about 250 to 300,000 people. They are not only full here, they're full in that field, they're full behind me, and they are now across the street approaching the Washington Monument."

But CBS News – which commissioned an estimate by AirPhotosLive.com, a company that uses aerial photography to judge crowd sizes — said about 87,000 people attended the rally:

AirPhotosLive.com gave its estimate a margin of error of 9,000, meaning between 78,000 and 96,000 people attended the rally. The photos used to make the estimate were taken at noon Saturday, which is when the company estimated was the rally's high point.

"Something beyond imagination is happening," Beck told the crowd of 78-to-500,000. "America today begins to turn back to God. For too long, this country has wandered in darkness."

Dr. King’s August 28, 1963 speech drew more than 250,000 people.

While promoting the event, Beck defended his right to hold the rally on its 47th anniversary.

"Whites don't own Abraham Lincoln,” he said. “Blacks don't own Martin Luther King.”

[Photo via CNN]