Earth Day vs. Tea Parties -- Suddenly, the Press Could Care Less About Turnout

By Dan GainorVice President of Business and Culture

It's hard to criticize Earth Day. It's a day when literally ______ people get out there and celebrate Mother Nature. Yes, I said ______ people because we have no idea how many people actually attended. Why? Because none of the top media outlets bothered to ask. That spin has Earth Day supporters filling in the blanks with lots of touchy-feely stories and no numbers while the media had the tea parties down for the count despite claims of around 1 million attendees.

The New York Times showed just how to avoid such an uncomfortable topic with its day-after story highlighting Obama's Earth Day visit to Iowa:

"President Obama came to Newton, population 16,000, on Wednesday to mark Earth Day," wrote Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

"He declared 'a new era of energy exploration in America' and pitched his energy plan as a win-win for the economy and the environment."

Of course, Stolberg's piece was missing the big number -- how many in town or anywhere for that matter marked Earth Day.

In all, the media reported on just about everything but attendance at Earth Day events -- far different than the Tax Day Tea Party events where it was the numbers that counted.

It's not like she's an artithmophobic. Stolberg included 13 different numbers in her piece -- it featured everything from the town's population to the length of Obama's speech (35 minutes) to the number of Maytag jobs lost when the plant closed (1,800) to the number of acres town supervisor Rick Tiedje has on his farm (500).

The big ______ was typical though. ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson" did an Earth Day segment about turning garbage into business opportunities highlighting such innovations as a candy factory that saves $500,000 a year running on methane. CBS News focused on the creation of a bike-powered washing machine for the third world. NBC focused on NASA photos of the Earth to mark the day.

In all, the media reported on just about everything but attendance at Earth Day events -- far different than the Tax Day Tea Party events where the numbers counted. The New York Times's David Carr turned to the left to compile a grand total for tea party events.

Carr said that "according to, more than 300,000 people attended rallies in 346 cities." He left out that claims to be nonpartisan but is run by two people who backed Barack Obama. In fact, Nate Silver of 538 admits "I vote for Democratic candidates the majority of the time (though by no means always)."

Another Times story that day said "It was hard to determine from the moderate turnout just how effective the parties would be." That Liz Robbins story detailed how in "Philadelphia, a rally in Center City drew about 200 rain-soaked participants"; "several hundred people showed up in Lafayette Park opposite the White House"; "in Pensacola, Fla., about 500 protesters lined a busy street" and more. In all, Robbins listed attendance from at least five events -- none more than 2,000.

USA Today undermined the overall tea party tally before it even got to its story. The piece was headlined "Thousands rally at 'Tax Day Tea Parties.'" The story went on to cited numbers from just one of the hundreds of tea parties -- "In Lansing, Mich., 3,000 to 4,000 people cheered Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who became known as "Joe the Plumber." The Washington Post played the same attendance card mentioning that "500 mud-spattered demonstrators."

The networks were just as bad. As NBC "Today Show" anchor Ann Curry commented that "tens of thousands of people gathered at so-called tea parties." ABC's Charles Gibson said much the same: "And across the country today, thousands of people protested over the tax system." CBS's Maggie Rodriguez, filling in for Katie Couric, told the "Evening News" audience that "thousands of Americans who held protests all over the country" protesting "the most dreaded day on the American calendar."

Contrast all that with how the tea party folks themselves describe the events. Tax Day Tea Party national event coordinator Amy Kremer told World Net Daily, "I would estimate it at over 1 million. I'm waiting on more numbers to come in from organizers right now. I can tell you it is absolutely over 750,000 right now."

While there's always a bit of disparity between event organizers and other estimates, even the Christian Science Monitor stressed the import of such large numbers at the tea parties. "By some estimates, over half a million Americans took to the streets last Wednesday to protest taxes and Washington spending -- the largest single-day turnout of protesters in the U.S. since 750,000 people marched in Los Angeles in support of rights and protections for immigrants on March 25, 2006," wrote Patrik Jonsson on April 18.

Apparently, he didn't get the memo to downgrade the numbers. Maybe next year, Jonsson can cover Earth Day and we can tell how many really attended there.

Dan Gainor is MRC's Vice President of Business and Culture. He appears each week on's "Strategy Room" and his column runs every week on