President Donald Trump may soon be able to boast about the relative size of his inauguration crowd, albeit on a technicality, after President-elect Joe Biden said Friday his swearing-in will likely be a scaled-down affair due to the ongoing pandemic.
Biden sketched out his plans for Jan. 20, saying they are likely to mirror the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which was conducted almost entirely remotely, rather than have participants descend on one central location. Biden said members of his transition team are in contact with those who helped organize the virtual convention, though many of the details are still in flux.
The president-elect said his staff will consult with public health experts as they formulate their plans for Inauguration Day, but acknowledged “it is highly unlikely” throngs of people will be encouraged to amass on the National Mall like in the past.
“My guess is that there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Biden said following an address about Friday’s monthly jobs report and the need for Congress to pass another coronavirus relief package. “But my guess is you’ll see a lot of virtual activity in states all across America, engaging even more people than before.”
That echoes comments from Biden’s newly minted chief of staff Ron Klain, who said last month that the inauguration will "definitely have to be changed," as a result of the risk such an event poses of spreading the deadly virus.
Biden contrasted his cautious approach to the Republican National Convention in August, which included hundreds of GOP dignitaries sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the White House lawn as Trump accepted his party’s nomination during a 71-minute speech — capped off with a fireworks display.
“It’s going to have to be more imaginative,” he said from a theater in Wilmington, Del. “I think the convention we put on really opened up avenues that we never thought existed.”
Trump, who for weeks has not accepted Biden’s electoral victory and instead pursued attempts to overturn those results, has remained coy about whether he will attend Biden’s inauguration. Trump is also reportedly mulling whether to announce a bid that same day to reclaim the Oval Office in 2024, potentially drawing attention away from Biden.
Trump’s inauguration drew hundreds of thousands of spectators in 2017 — prompting him to boast of “perhaps record-setting turnout — but it quickly became a PR debacle after it was juxtaposed against photos of Barack Obama’s perceptively larger crowd from 2009. (The Women’s March held the day after Trump’s ceremony also appeared to dwarf his crowd.)
The president heavily criticized the unfavorable comparison to his predecessor, touting images composed in a way that emphasized the numbers of those in attendance. Trump’s first White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, also strained his credibility with the White House press corps through his vigorous defense of the president’s inauguration claims — a display that was memorably lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” by Melissa McCarthy.