Donald Trump supporters have been furious with Fox News since election night, when the network was the first to call the state of Arizona for Joe Biden. But when the MAGA hardcore gathered on Wednesday outside of Fox’s Washington, D.C., office, they could only draw eight people, one of whom was a child.
The event was officially dubbed a “Stop the Steal” rally. But one could be excused if they barely noticed it amid the other rain-drenched people passing by just blocks from the Capitol. There was, put simply, a dramatic imbalance between the seriousness of the stated goal of the protest (quite literally, reversing the results of a presidential election) and the actual human beings there to fight for it.
When asked why the protest against Fox’s perceived anti-Trump bias had drawn so few people—even after claiming that “hundreds of thousands of people” were behind their effort— organizer Ed Martin rejected that the notion that crowd size was important.
“What we care about is measuring the votes, not measuring what you tell me is important,” Martin said, flanked by a masked protester in a pro-Trump shirt that promised to “make liberals cry again.”
The anti-Fox rally was an ominous kick-off for a weekend in which both mainstream Trump supporters and far-right extremists are promising to flood into Washington, D.C., in a last-ditch effort to avert Trump’s clear re-election defeat.
In a series of events with names like the “Million MAGA March,” “Stop the Steal,” and the “March for Trump,” Trump supporters are expected to rally near the White House and outside the Supreme Court to demand the court intervene in some still nebulous way to give the election to Trump.
The far-right Proud Boys, the group Trump told to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate, will appear at the Million MAGA March. The Oath Keepers militia group has claimed that its members will be nearby to hold off any “antifa.” Meanwhile, a “Stop the Steal” caravan led by InfoWars host Owen Shroyer is snaking its way through the South and is expected to arrive in Washington on Friday.
Other extremist groups have also announced plans to appear in Washington. Far-right personality Nick Fuentes, who marched in the 2017 white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, has urged his racist followers, who call themselves “groypers,” to travel to Washington.
”GROYPERS ARE GOING TO STOP THIS COUP,” Fuentes posted on social media app Telegram.
It’s quite likely that the attendance will be far more robust than Wednesday’s affair outside Fox’s studio. That may be in part because the weekend’s rallies have been promoted by more mainstream Republican figures. On Tuesday, Fox host Sean Hannity tweeted a promo picture of the “March for Trump,” which is set to start at noon on Saturday at a park near the White House.
But even then, there is some internal paranoia that the rally will ultimately disappoint. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio told The Daily Beast that the “Million MAGA March” name may overstate how many people will actually show up in Washington.
“I also think it’s poor marketing as far as calling it the ‘Million MAGA March,’” Tarrio said. “Because let’s say we were able to get, max, 100,000 people. It’s still going to fall short. I don’t think we’re going to get 100,000.”
The disparate rallies are, to a degree, a reflection of the different messaging behind the weekend’s protests: anger at Democrats, at Fox News for calling the election for Biden, at local and state election officials who have refuted claims of election fraud. At Martin’s rally, a protester raised a new claim, holding up a sign that said “Fox = UN.”
“The institutions that said they were telling us the truth were not truth tellers,” Martin said.
Fox anchor Neil Cavuto came in for special criticism at the tiny rally, with a woman next to Martin holding up a sign that said “Stop the Neal” — an apparent, albeit misspelled, reference to Cavuto cutting off White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.
“I think it was offensive to the American people,” Martin said of the moment Cavuto stopped Fox’s coverage of McEnany’s press conference.
The anger at Fox may make for some unusual infighting among the ranks, as the conservative network is often the one promoting rallies like these, as opposed to being the object of their scorn. But experts also fear that Saturday’s events offer a chance for far-right extremists to push their messages amid more mainstream Republicans.
“I just hope that those people who are there who are not extremists will be able to recognize the extremists in their midst,” said Oren Segal, the vice-president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
—Additional reporting by Kelly Weill