President-elect, Joe Biden, speaks to the media after receiving a briefing from the transition COVID-19 advisory board.
  • US president-elect Joe Biden said Friday he expects his January 20 inauguration to be a "more imaginative" virtual event, much like the 2020 DNC. 
  • "It is highly unlikely that there will be a million people on the mall, going all the way down to the [Lincoln] Memorial," Biden said.
  • The decision is in stark contrast to that made by President Trump, who began his term in 2017 by arguing about the number of spectators at his inauguration.

US president-elect Joe Biden on Friday said he expects his inauguration to be mostly virtual, although he'll still plan to take the oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol. 

Although Biden said plans for the January 20 ceremony aren't complete, he expects it to be a "more imaginative" event than previous inaugurations. He said it may be similar to the 2020 Democratic National Convention, an all-online event that broadcast lawmakers and citizens from around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is highly unlikely that there will be a million people on the mall, going all the way dowpn to the [Lincoln] Memorial," Biden said on Friday. "My guess is that there will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, but my guess is you'll see a lot of vrtual activity in states all across America, engaging even more people than before."

Asking crowds to stay home instead of flooding the National Mall would separate Biden from his predecessor, President Donald Trump, who began his term by arguing about the size of his crowds. He said about 1.5 million well-wishers had come to cheer him on, but the media reported far fewer.

President Donald Trump delivering his inaugural address in January 2020.

In non-pandemic years, crowds typically gather along the grassy stretch of parkland between the US Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. In the days after Trump's 2017 ceremony, his office argued about the size of his crowd, which most estimates put at smaller than former President Barack Obama's 2009 crowd.

"This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe," former press secretary Sean Spicer said at the time, although photos taken of the National Mall appeared to tell a different story.

During his re-election campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized Biden for not drawing big enough crowds at his rallies. In November, Obama tore into Trump at a Biden campaign event, saying Trump had an "obsession" with crowd size.

"What is his obsession, by the way, with crowd size?" Obama said. "This is the one measure he has of success. He's still worrying about his inauguration crowd being smaller than mine."

Trump also has not said whether he plans to participate in the 2021 inauguration ceremony. Outgoing presidents typically great incoming ones at the White House on inauguration day. 

Biden said on Friday that his team hadn't finalized plans for January 20. "But the key is keeping people safe," he said.

 

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