Donald Trump is having trouble selling advance tickets for his upcoming speaking tour with conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, according to interviews with ticketing officials for the venues.
Early last month, Trump and O’Reilly, the one-time top Fox News host, announced a joint “History Tour” featuring four stops in December. O’Reilly said his conversations with Trump “will not be boring,” while the former president promised “fun, fun, fun for everyone who attends.”
Tickets went on sale for the events on June 14. While most seats are priced between $100 and $300, a “VIP Meet & Greet Package” goes for more than $8,500 and includes getting pictures taken with Trump and O’Reilly and a pre-show, 45–minute reception.
The events are not until the end of the year, Trump’s camp notes. But so far, the pace of purchases has been slow compared to other acts, arena officials say.
In Orlando, where the duo is hosting an event at the 20,000-capacity Amway Center on Dec. 12, a box office employee for the arena said, “There’s still a lot of tickets open.” The person, who like others for this story insisted on anonymity to share confidential sales data, added: “We have concerts that are doing a lot better than this.” A Bad Bunny concert being held next March recently sold out within two days, for example, and the majority of seats for a Dec. 3 Kane Brown concert have been sold already.
At the 20,000-seat American Airlines Center in Dallas, home to the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and NHL’s Dallas Stars, a large number of seats remain open for the Dec. 19 Trump-O’Reilly event, according to a stadium employee who works in ticket sales.
For Trump’s Houston event with O’Reilly at the 19,000-seat Toyota Center, home to the NBA’s Houston Rockets, 60 to 65 percent of seats remain unsold, an employee with access to ticket sales information estimated. And in Sunrise, Florida, a box office employee at the BB&T Center said that they would have expected sales for the Trump-O’Reilly event there to have been “definitely higher” by now.
“It hasn’t been [selling] like crazy,” the person added, noting that events for comedian Katt Williams and podcast star Joe Rogan have done “significantly” better than the Trump-O’Reilly duo thus far.
As of Thursday evening, Ticketmaster pages for the Orlando, Dallas and Sunrise events and the Axs page for the Houston event show wide swathes of available seats, with some large sections only having sold a few tickets.
The difficulty Trump and O’Reilly appear to be having in filling up stadiums may be a reflection of the times. After a year-plus on lockdown, Americans seem eager to reengage culturally while disengaging politically. Cable news ratings, for example, are down substantially.
But former presidents — and even their spouses — don’t usually encounter hurdles in selling out their appearances and speeches. Tickets for Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” book tour in 2018, for example, sold quickly, with most tickets for her Chicago United Center stop selling out within minutes and the cheapest tickets for all the venues selling out in less than two days. Her average venue size was similar to Trump’s, although Trump’s four venues have a slightly higher capacity.
Bill and Hillary Clinton’s joint Live Nation tour in 2018 and 2019, meanwhile, saw events sell out within a week or two weeks, according to a person familiar with that tour, although the venues were smaller than the four Trump events.
For Trump, who is famously crowd-obsessed, lagging ticket sales numbers complicate the image he promotes of himself as a top draw. The tour represents a chance to speak to devoted fans, many of whom still consider him to be the legitimate president. It also provides him an opportunity to earn money and lay more groundwork for a potential 2024 bid. For O’Reilly, the tour represents a return to the limelight after he was pushed out of Fox News following a sexual harassment scandal that led to about $45 million in settlements being paid to at least six women. More recently, O’Reilly has hosted a nightly show called “No Spin News” on the conservative platform The First.
Both Trump and O’Reilly pushed back aggressively at the notion that ticket sales are not robust. A Trump aide noted that the former president hasn’t promoted the events very much since they went on sale, and said that “many tickets” haven’t yet been made available.
“The History Tour has already sold over $5 million of tickets, and the excitement and enthusiasm is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Trump spokesperson Liz Harrington said in a statement. “Come December, the sold out shows will be a memorable night for all.”
But in a sign that sales numbers may not be where the former president wants them, the National Republican Congressional Committee on Monday morning sent a text message to its list advertising tickets. “Love Trump? Want to see him speak live? Enter now to win 2 tickets to Trump’s tour with Bill O’Reilly. Link to enter expires in 1 hour,” the solicitation read.
O’Reilly, in a phone interview after Trump had told him to call this reporter, denied that ticket sales are lagging, calling it “false” and “totally ridiculous” and provided a dollar figure that was $2 million higher than Harrington’s.
“We have more than $7 million in the bank,” O’Reilly said. “We haven’t spent a nickel on marketing, nothing. All those 7 million for four shows were done on the announcement. Marketing will start in about a week. Nobody has sold tickets this fast at this price, and VIPs are sold out at 3 of the 4 venues.”
O’Reilly said he and Trump had sold $2 million worth of tickets for Dallas and that the Sunrise, Florida, event was almost 75 percent sold out. He noted that not all of the 19,000 seats at the Houston event will be available for purchase. And he also said that it was “bullshit” that ticket sales for Orlando have been lackluster. But when asked how many tickets have been sold at the venue, he said he didn’t know.
“I don’t have that information,” he said. “I do grosses. I’m not the ticket counter.”
O’Reilly threatened to sue this reporter, saying, “You put one word in there that’s not true, I’ll sue your ass off and you can quote me on that. You’re just a hatchet man and that’s what you are.”
Trump’s Save America PAC put out a statement late Wednesday quoting O’Reilly saying that the “tour will be one of the most lucrative of all time.” And in O’Reilly’s “Message of the Day” on Thursday, he said “Politico is trying to denigrate the Trump History Tour.”
Asked to confirm O’Reilly’s Dallas numbers, a spokesperson for the American Airlines Center said she could not comment on ticket sales for any event per company policy and referred questions to the tour publicist. A spokesperson for the BB&T Center in Sunrise did not respond to a request for comment when asked to confirm O’Reilly’s Sunrise numbers.
Kirk Wingerson, the marketing director for the Amway Center, said in a text message: “The box office person you talked with did not provide an accurate assessment nor do they speak for us.” Wingerson referred POLITICO to the Orlando city clerk’s office, which did not provide numbers in time for publication. Wingerson did not respond when asked for specific numbers of tickets sold.
A spokesperson for the Toyota Center declined to comment due to a policy of not disclosing attendance numbers prior to an event.
Trump’s high-dollar tour with O’Reilly coincides with the reemergence of his signature MAGA rallies. During those rallies, he has hit on familiar themes — false claims of a “stolen” election, boasts about his record and harsh criticism of his successor.
They’ve been big draws. An earlier Save America rally in Wellington, Ohio, attracted some 28,000 to 30,000 people, according to the Lorain County Fair board. But they don’t pay.
It’s not clear how much money Trump is making for his appearances with O’Reilly. Paid speeches were lucrative in the former “Apprentice” star’s pre-presidential days. In financial disclosure documents, he reported making $1.75 million in seven addresses from May 2014 to April 2015.
Past presidents have cashed in by charging corporations and associations hefty fees for appearances, with Barack Obama earning as much as $400,000 per speech. Bill Clinton has been known to command as much as $750,000 for a speech, while George W. Bush has often received between $100,000 to $175,000 per paid event.
But Trump’s often toxic rhetoric and his false claims of a stolen election make this more conventional buck-raking approach uniquely challenging for him.
“For the past administration, there has been very little demand for former members, starting from the top, and it’s largely because it’s a very polarizing environment,” said a leader at one of the country’s top speaking agencies, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Companies don’t want to get associated with anything that smells like Jan. 6 or questioning the election. That doesn’t help them at all.”