From Eisenhower to Obama, Charlie Brotman's front-row seat to inaugural history
For decades, Charlie Brotman’s role in the inaugural parade every four years was nonpartisan. He was just there to tell the new president which bands, groups and organizations were marching in front of him at any given moment.
But on Saturday, the 89-year-old took a few shots at President Donald Trump while introducing the organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington.
First, though, a bit of background. Brotman first began announcing the inaugural parade when he was not even 30 years old in 1957. Since then, he has become an inaugural institution, announcing 15 parades for 10 different presidents. Although Brotman had no formal contract or guarantee from president to president, he assumed after Trump was elected that he would be invited again, and he very much wanted the job.
But Trump’s inaugural committee instead decided to hire another Washington D.C. voice artist, Steve Ray, who had volunteered for the Trump campaign. In an email to Brotman, the committee instead offered to make Brotman, “Announcer Chairman Emeritus.”
In the immediate aftermath, Brotman said he was heartbroken and even contemplated suicide, he told CNN. However, as time went on he said he had swallowed the disappointment and wished Ray well. He even secured a consolation job, helping to provide commentary on the parade for NBC’s Washington affiliate, per the Washington Post.
Then, the day after the inauguration, Brotman popped up again, this time at the Women’s March, posing for a picture with Linda Sarsour, one of the event’s organizers.
What’s more, Brotman introduced the program of speakers for the event, making him just one of a few men who spoke on stage.
“What an incredible turnout. Wow!” Brotman said, per NBC 4. “And I love those signs. ... What we’re going to do this morning, this afternoon, is just incredible. It’s beautiful what you’re doing here.”
“The crowds here are much larger than at the parade,” Brotman later told protesters, drawing cheers. “Today I have a new job. And I am tickled to have that job. It’s my honor to welcome the national organizers for the Women’s March on Washington.”
Brotman’s assessment was in line with some estimations offered by media outlets Friday, who used side-by-side footage of Trump’s inauguration with Barack Obama’s first inauguration to estimate that Trump likely had a third of the crowd Obama had, per the New York Times, which would put Trump somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 people. The Washington Post reported that the D.C. Metro system reported 570,557 trips, short of both of Obama’s inauguration days.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Saturday that Trump’s inauguration had the “largest audience ... both in person and around the globe,” in history, and Trump claimed in an appearance at the CIA that he believed there were at least a million people present Friday, per the Washington Post. However, both of these statements have been disproven.
Meanwhile, the Washington Metro system announced in a tweet that it had surpassed 597,000 rides Saturday as of 4 p.m., with many social media users posting photographs of packed trains and platforms of people attending the Women’s March.