TULSA, Okla. — Teenagers, TikTok users and Korean pop music fans may have trolled the president of the United States.
For more than a week before President Donald Trump’s first campaign rally in three months on Saturday, June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, these tech-savvy groups have been mobilizing to reserve tickets for an event they had no intention of attending.
While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers.
Democrat Joe Biden's campaign says the turnout was a sign of weakening voter support.
After top Democrats gloated that teenage activists had sabotaged turnout at President Trump’s rally, the Trump campaign fired back within hours, saying that media organizations are complicit in spreading false narratives about the event -- and that protesters and the coronavirus were the real culprits
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., specifically asserted that teenagers allegedly reserved scores of tickets for the Tulsa event online -- then failed to show up, thus preventing others from being able to attend. "Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote to President Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale, referring to a popular Chinese video-sharing social media application.
Despite media reports, including a heavily opinionated piece at The New York Times, there is no clear evidence that social media users affected the rally.
"The article doesn’t even provide any evidence, it just says a bunch of teenagers said they ruined the rally and the reporter/editors at the Times took their word for it," said The Washington Examiner's Joe Gabriel Simonson, referring to the Times' front-page piece on the rally. "Diminishing standards."
The Times article, co-written by anti-President Trump author Maggie Haberman, goes on to bizarrely state that it is "false" for President Trump to blame "left-wing radicals” for "rioting in cities across the country."
Readily available video evidence shows left-wing activists tearing down statues in several cities and even demolishing police stations and establishing a deteriorating autonomous zone in Seattle.
The Times' piece, which resembles an editorial at several points, further incorrectly states that President Trump was attacking "attempts to remove Confederate monuments" through legal and political means that enjoy some bipartisan support.
Meanwhile, more neutral observers offered their own assessments of the rally.
"The campaign made a strategic mistake holding a rally in a venue this big in a state with a smaller population when you have to overcome attendance issues due to a pandemic," observed journalist Yashar Ali. "He should have held this rally in a state where he had a bigger pool of supporters to pull from." Ali also faulted President Trump's campaign for saying attendance would be massive.
"Think about it," he wrote. "If you intend to go to a rally for a candidate of your choice but you keep hearing that 800,000 people have reserved tickets (forget that many were fake reservations - that news didn't reach most people), would you still want to go? 800,000 for 19,000 capacity?"
Indeed, some President Trump supporters told Fox News that news reports of expected high turnout had discouraged them from attending.
"I tried all week to get tickets to the Trump Rally and could’t get the campaign to respond to my applications. I lived within minutes of Tulsa," Jackie York of Okemah, Okla., told Fox News via email. "When they started showing evening news clips showing people camping outside for rally, I decided not to fight the 'hundreds of thousands' of people I assumed would be fighting to go in. We had no tickets. My pastor also wanted to go, but couldn’t get tickets online. We are sad today to have missed opportunity."
Another President Trump supporter told Fox News that she and others could not enter the rally due to issues with temperature-checkers leaving prematurely, although Fox News has not verified that claim.
Tim Murtaugh, a Trump 2020 campaign spokesman, reiterated Parscale's claim of protester interference, noting that large groups had gathered outside the arena and created a threatening atmosphere.
TV images showed much of the upper tier of Tulsa's BOK Center remained empty during the rally, with other space visible in the lower seating areas as well.
Ocasio-Cortez claimed that teens “flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID."
“Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud,” Ocasio-Cortez added.
In a separate message, Ocasio-Cortez thanked “KPop allies,” a term referring to fans of Korean pop music.
“KPop allies, we see and appreciate your contributions in the fight for justice too,” the congresswoman wrote.
An Iowa woman posted a video on TikTok last week, encouraging people to participate in the alleged scam, CNN reported.
“All of those of us that want to see this 19,000 seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage,” the woman, identified as Mary Jo Laupp, told her TikTok followers.
Thousands of other TikTok users posted similar messages as the plan spread online, The New York Times reported.
“It spread mostly through Alt TikTok -- we kept it on the quiet side where people do pranks and a lot of activism,” YouTuber Elijah Daniel, 26, told the Times. “K-pop Twitter and Alt TikTok have a good alliance where they spread information amongst each other very quickly. They all know the algorithms and how they can boost videos to get where they want.”
Many of those participating in the alleged scam deleted their posts after 24 to 48 hours in a bid to limit word of the plan from spreading on mainstream social media, a New York Times report said.
“These kids are smart and they thought of everything,” Daniel told the paper.
KPop activists were previously linked to campaigns to raise money for Black Lives Matter, fight racist hashtags on Twitter and disrupt the eyewitness app of the Dallas Police Department, Vulture.com reported.
Fox News' Casey Stegall and Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.