The more than dozen empty rows weren’t apparent to television viewers thanks to flattering shots that appeared to show a full, non-distanced crowd packing the front rows – in a striking visual display of normalcy after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions.
But members of the traveling White House press pool shared photos from the back of the room, revealing that, in fact, the venue was far from packed at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.
Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Epstein, who traveled with Biden as a representative of wire services, tweeted an image of “[w]hat the Biden CNN town hall looks like from the back of the auditorium”
Voice of America reporter Steve Herman, the radio pool reporter for the trip, tweeted a similar image showing that the “[b]ack of the auditorium is empty.”
Herman also published a video showing other angles where spectators were missing from seats.
The image of empty seats was discordant with Biden’s attempt to project confidence in overcoming the coronavirus pandemic, including his assertion, “this is not a pandemic.”
It’s unclear if the room was half-full due to concerns about the virus or due to a lack of public interest. A White House official referred an inquiry to CNN.
CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas told The Post, “This was a typical audience size for a CNN town hall.” She did not elaborate on the reason for the small crowd size.
Former President Donald Trump routinely mocked Biden during last year’s presidential campaign for drawing small audiences – even before the pandemic – compared to his own rallies that generally featured tens of thousands of fired-up fans.
“Biden comes to Florida, you have like 12, 13 people. You know, they do the circles. And he has a hard time filling up the circles. Here we probably have 30,000 people or so,” Trump told a roaring crowd in Jacksonville, Florida, in September.