If you watched the TV broadcast of President Trump’s rally in Phoenix, Arizona, it might have looked like the event went exactly as planned. The “Blacks for Trump” guy was front and center, and other enthusiastic Trump supporters booed journalists and applauded the president’s racist dog whistles, right on cue. As soon as Trump took the stage he marveled, “What a crowd,” and claimed (falsely) that there weren’t many protesters outside.
“A lot of people in here, a lot of people pouring right now,” Trump said. “They can get them in. Whatever you can do, fire marshals, we’ll appreciate it.”
A short time after the event, Trump noted the crowd size again, tweeting: “Thank you Arizona. Beautiful turnout of 15,000 in Phoenix tonight!”
But according to Bloomberg, Trump was actually very upset by the “beautiful turnout” — so much so that he’s fired George Gigicos. Or rather, he had top security aide Keith Schiller tell Gigicos that he’ll never manage a Trump rally again, because Trump doesn’t actually like to fire people.
Gigicos organized Trump’s rallies during the campaign, and he served as White House director of scheduling and advance until last month, when he quit to return to his consulting business. He organized the Phoenix event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee.
Trump’s notorious sensitivity about crowd size makes it hard to pin down how many people were actually at the event. City of Phoenix spokeswoman Julie Watters tried to back up Trump’s claim of 15,000, though she said there weren’t that many people in the venue. “There were more than 10,000 inside and there were approximately between 4,500 to 5,000 outside who were turned away because the event was wrapping up,” she said. Jon Hotchkiss of Be Less Stupid, who attended the event, estimated that the number of people who saw Trump speak was more like 4,000.
The Washington Post reported that as Trump’s 72-minute tirade dragged on, the crowd lost interest:
Hundreds left early, while others plopped down on the ground, scrolled through their social media feeds or started up a conversation with their neighbors. After waiting for hours in 107-degree heat to get into the rally hall — where their water bottles were confiscated by security — people were tired and dehydrated and the president just wasn’t keeping their attention. Although Trump has long been the master of reading the mood of a room and quickly adjusting his message to satisfy as many of his fans as possible, his rage seemed to cloud his senses.
But Trump was upset even before he took the stage. TV and social media coverage showed the crowd was thin when Trump arrived at 6:30 p.m. The room filled in as several people introduced the president, but he still blamed the lackluster energy in the room on Gigicos’s staging:
Gigicos had staged the event in a large multipurpose room. The main floor space was bisected by a dividing wall, leaving part of the space empty. There were some bleachers off to the side, but otherwise the audience was standing — and the scene appeared flat, lacking the energy and enthusiasm of other rallies.
Though Gigicos has been banished, it seems Trump is still fixated on the size of his adoring crowd in Phoenix. “You saw the massive crowd we had,” he said at a White House news conference on Monday. “The people went crazy when I said, ‘What do you think of Sheriff Joe?’ Or something to that effect.”