The media frequently reported on the danger of the "Justice for J6" rally, suggesting it would be the sequel to the deadly Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill the day Congress intended to certify the results of the November 2020 election. A heavy law enforcement presence was put in place in hopes of preventing another violent scene. Authorities erected temporary fencing around the Capitol and deployed heavy dump trucks to ring the rally site, while local police departments and the National Guard were on standby.
One person was arrested in the crowd for carrying a knife and a second man was arrested after someone reported to officers that they saw him carrying what appeared to be a handgun, police said.
But the rally did not turn violent and the awkward ratio of participants to press became clear to reporters as soon as the event got underway.
Critics mocked the media for "literally" making the rally bigger than it was.
"The scary MAGA protest which DHS, CNN and MSNBC spent weeks were hysterically warning could be another 1/6 and that (the newly massively funded) Capitol Police cited to install maximum security," journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.
"Unfortunately, this lack of turnout will not inspire any self-reflection among the media outlets who hyped it hysterically for the last three weeks," The Federalist's Rachel Bovard said.
Her prediction appeared to become true as several media pundits tried to argue Saturday's sparsely attended rally still had massive implications.
"It's a smart take the low turnout today doesn't mean there is any less support for the big lie, the Jan 6 putsch or Trump himself among his base," MSNBC analyst Joyce Vance maintained.
CNN's Brian Stelter was mocked for tweeting out an explanation for why some outlets still ran with news of the rally on their front pages, even though it was admittedly a "dud."
"Even though it was a dud, ‘Small crowd at Capitol protest’ is still the lead story on Sunday's WaPo front page," Stelter wrote. "Why? Because, as the story's lead says, it was 'the most anticipated visit by right-wing activists to the nation's capital since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on 1/6.'"
"Most anticipated…by whom?" Newsbusters' Tim Graham asked.
Further, critics shamed the media for zeroing in on the sparsely attended rally while issues more pressing and dangerous, such as the humanitarian crisis on the southern border, largely went unnoticed by the same outlets. Fox News has captured the chaos under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, which has seen the sudden influx of thousands of migrants.