On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump joined the waiting crowd to light up the National Christmas Tree.
Trump spent the days leading up to the event promoting the tax reform bill currently before Congress, but he still took some time to remind everyone that America was saying “Merry Christmas” again:
— Virginia Kruta (@VAKruta) November 29, 2017
The tree-lighting ceremony went off without a hitch, and President Trump used his time to deliver a very Christmasy message:
The Christmas Story begins 2,000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son and the most extraordinary gift of all—the gift of God’s love for all of humanity.
Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of his life... pic.twitter.com/P94C3LjWlx
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
But some critics were quick to pounce on photos showing a number of empty seats at the National Mall:
— Steve Rudin ABC7 (@SteveRudinABC7) November 30, 2017
A lot of empty seats at WH tree lighting ceremony 😳 https://t.co/epT2gwxBoD
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 30, 2017
— Bob Cesca (@bobcesca_go) November 30, 2017
What is not immediately clear in the photos, however, is when they were taken — even side-by-side photos of President Barack Obama's 2016 tree-lighting ceremony and Thursday's event didn't make things any clearer:
Obama National Christmas Tree lighting V Trump Tree lighting pic.twitter.com/LC8XELQwgf
— Paul White :) 🎄 (@Paul_Resistance) November 30, 2017
Actor Dean Cain, who attended the tree-lighting as part of a Hallmark Channel presentation, told Independent Journal Review he didn't notice a lot of empty seats.
“It was wonderful and positive, and there were crowds of people as far as I could see,” he said.