TULSA, OKLAHOMA - JUNE 20: Supporters wait for the
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump's campaign director has publicly pushed back against at reports that K-pop fans and TikTokers helped tank Trump's Saturday rally by reserving thousands of tickets and not showing up.
  • Brad Parscale said "leftists and online trolls ... don't know what they're talking about or how our rallies work," and blamed the low attendance on the "fake news" media.
  • But other officials anonymously told The New York Times that online pranksters did likely play a role in the low turnout, but said they could now use "troll data" to "tighten up" projections for future events.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

In public, the Trump campaign has adamantly denied claims that legions of TikTokers and K-pop fans helped tank the president's big comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.

"Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don't know what they're talking about or how our rallies work," Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, said in a statement Sunday.

"Registering for a rally means you've RSVP'd with a cellphone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool," he said.

But behind the scenes it appears to be a different story, with campaign officials anonymously admitting to The New York Times that many who had signed up to attend the rally were not real Trump supporters but online tricksters.

A campaign adviser told the newspaper that "troll data" - or the information used by the pranksters to book the tickets - could still be useful to the campaign, as it could be entered into a system to "tighten up the formula used to determine projected attendance for rallies," and screen out fake supporters.

After Trump arrived back at the White House Saturday night, apparently crestfallen at the rally flop, reports began to emerge that for weeks, a legion of online fans of Korean pop music, or K-pop, and teenagers on TikTok had been taking part in an under-the-radar campaign to spoil the president's big night.

In the run-up to the event, the Trump campaign had urged supports to sign up to tickets to the event for free with their cellphone number, which it could then use to target supporters with various ads.

Thousands of K-pop fans and teens reportedly did just that - respnding to the RSVP saying they'd attend, many using temporary numbers, with no plans to actually attend.

Before the event, Parscale boasted that one million people had signed up to attend the rally. The event had been billed as the president's comeback after the crises of the coronavirus pandemic and anti-racism demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

Tim Fullerton, an Obama administration official, told The Washington Post that the online movement helped warp the campaign's expectation of how many people would likely attend, which led to its making less effort to get real supporters to show up.

Fullerton said it probably "made it seem like there were more people interested than they thought, which probably means [the Trump campaign] did less to drive people to the event."

Brad Parscale at a Trump rally in Lexington, Kentucky.
Bryan Woolston/Getty Images
Parscale is now under real pressure for the debacle, with Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner - both senior advisers in the Trump administration - furious with him for the rally flop, a campaign source told CNN.

In his Sunday statement Parscale went on to blame a familiar Trump campaign target: the news media.

"The fact is that a week's worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of Covid and protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally," he said.

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Get the best of our site emailed to you daily: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: