Dubious AP Claim: 'Thousands' of Protesters Tried to Sway GOP Electors on Monday

As one would expect, there is plenty to criticize in Stephen Ohlemacher's Monday evening coverage of Donald Trump's achievement of an Electoral College majority earlier in the day.

This post will concentrate on Ohlemacher's questionable counting of "protesters." A separate post looks at a very revealing failure in the wire service story's photo collection, in a graphic showing how the structuring of the Electoral College allegedly disfavors high-population states, which are (supposedly) predominantly blue. It doesn't show that at all.

As has been seen elsewhere in NewsBusters posts showing how the press highlighted disruptors and promoted the last-ditch liberal push" to reverse the results of general-election voting which ended on November 8, Ohlemacher gave far more ink and bandwidth to the very small crowds of anti-Trump "protesters" than they deserved.

The AP reporter went further, journeying far into the land of exaggeration — so far that the wire service partially reversed itself later.

Let's start with the headline: "Trump cruises to Electoral College victory despite protests."

As John Hinderaker at Powerline asked upon reading this headline: "Are we supposed to take seriously the idea that a handful of slackers waving signs at state capitols around the country could somehow reverse Donald Trump’s victory?" With the Associated Press, which by the way is one of Facebook's designated "fake news" fact checkers, the answer is apparently, "I guess so." Perhaps Ohlemacher was rooting for protesters to block building entrances and roadways, and is disappointed that it didn't happen.

Here's the reporter's opening sentence:

There were many protesters but few faithless electors as Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote Monday.

Later text claims the following:

Befitting an election filled with acrimony, thousands of protesters converged on state capitols across the country Monday, urging Republican electors to abandon their party's winning candidate.

Let's focus on "thousands of protesters" first.

Ohlemacher only cited an estimate of the protest turnout in one state: Pennsylvania, where there were "More than 200 demonstrators." I guess he wants us to believe that there must have been at least 100 at most other state capitols. Hardly.

Based on the following detailed list of states Trump won, whether or not Ohlemacher's claim of "thousands" is accurate is a close call, especially after considering that the reported figures which follow were in many instances reported by left-biased outlets with an incentive to exaggerate crowd size (presented five states at a time to save screen space):

Alabama, "about 60"; Alaska, "several women" (seriously); Arizona, "about 150"; Arkansas, "about 50"; Florida, "about 100."

Georgia, "dozens" (the LA Times claims "hundreds," which strains credibility, given the accompanying photos); Idaho, "roughly 40"; Indiana, "dozens"; Iowa, "roughly 40"; Kansas, "more than 50."

Kentucky, "nearly 80"; Louisiana, "a small group" of no more than 10; Michigan, "about 150"; Mississippi, no more than a dozen, based on  a photo at the link; Missouri, "dozens."

Montana, "about 35," who were given a chance to comment; Nebraska, "about 40"; North Carolina, "about 100"; North Dakota, "a man and a woman"; Ohio, "about 200."

Oklahoma, "some protesters"; Pennsylvania, "more than 200" (in AP report above); South Carolina, "several dozen"; South Dakota, none (based on this "Where the **** are they?” report); Tennessee, "less than 100" out of 500 expected.

Texas, "several dozen"; Utah, "about 60"; West Virginia, "a handful"; Wisconsin, "a few scores"; Wyoming, "a handful."

Based on these 30 reported estimates, I have compiled an overall estimate (rounded) of between 1,500 and 2,100 protesters in the 30 states Trump won:


The December 19 Coalition confidently predicted that "over 10,000" would be gathering at state capitals from Saturday through Monday. Even if that's true, that includes days the electors weren't meeting, and when there would be no one around to attempt to persuade.

Ohlemacher's report only focused on Monday, and the protest crowds in states where Trump won were collectively pathetic. There is no way that anyone can correctly describe protest crowds averaging between 50 and 70 participants in 30 states as "many." The correct word to describe these protests is "tiny."

But what about the states Trump didn't win? Why shouldn't they count? Let's go back to what the AP reporter wrote:

Befitting an election filled with acrimony, thousands of protesters converged on state capitols across the country Monday, urging Republican electors to abandon their party's winning candidate.

I hate to break it to AP and Ohlemacher, but in the 20 states (and DC) where Hillary Clinton won, there were no Republican electors. Any "protesters" in those 21 jurisdictions were only there to vent, and had no effect on "Republican electors," because — again — there weren't any. Therefore, it is inaccurate add the protesters in those jurisdictions to the figures presented above.

The best description of the truth of the previous paragraph can be found in a dispatch about Illinois.

Whoever wrote the item exhibited a bone-dry but uproariously funny sense of humor:

A small group of protesters met at the Illinois capitol to encourage electors not to vote for Trump. Chicago Tribune reporter Monique Garcia tweeted a picture of the men and women holding a “Stop Trump” sign. Illinois’ electoral votes went for Hillary Clinton. So, Illinois’ 20 electoral votes will not be going to Trump.

This is the writer's way of asking, "What in the world did you people think you were accomplishing by being there?"

And please, don't argue that the "small group" in Illinois (no more than a dozen based on a photo at the link), or the "more than 100" in Maine, the "hundreds" in California, or any of the non-existent to small crowds in the other 18 jurisdictions had any influence or ever had the potential to influence electors in other states. That's nonsense.

The interstate influence on Republican electors occurred during the six weeks after Election Day.

Concerning that, Ohlemacher wrote only that "Republican electors were deluged with emails, phone calls and letters urging them not to support Trump" — once again whitewashing the death threats, other threats of violence, and disgraceful incivility reported repeatedly elsewhere.

Ohlemacher's reporting was so bad that someone appears to have prevailed on him to get a grip.

Tuesday morning, less than six hours after the report discussed above, Ohlemacher posted a revised item with a different headline and a different lede:


The original opening-sentence citation of "many protesters" is gone. But the later inaccurate — or, conceivably, barely accurate — verbiage relating to "thousands of protesters" remains. And this is from a wire service which repeatedly applies the same description — "thousands" — to the annual March For Life in Washington, whose crowds routinely go well into six figures.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Crime Bias by Omission Double Standards Labeling Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Protesters Online Media Blogs Wire Services/Media Companies Associated Press Regional Media Stephen Ohlemacher Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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