9/12 CROWD ESTIMATES JUMP THE SHARK…. The “debate” over the size of the crowd for the right-wing protests in D.C. on Saturday have been painful to watch the last few days. Absurd claims and bogus photographs abound. This morning, Glenn Beck said a “university” put the number at 1.7 million, but he couldn’t remember which one.

All of this has been embarrassing for a few days now, but the story didn’t become farcical until today.

Yesterday on his radio program, while discussing the crowds at this weekend’s 9/12 protests, Glenn Beck claimed that the London Telegraph “quote[d] a source from the Park Service, the National Park Service, saying that it is the largest march on Washington ever.” This led to a good deal of confusion here, as the Telegraph article contains no such quote. Just another case of Beck making things up? Actually, the story behind this turns out to be much funnier than we could have anticipated.

Several conservative blogs have been quoting National Park Service spokesman “Dan Bana” as saying the 9/12 protest was “the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever.” This appears to be a repurposing of this quote from David Barna (who, unlike Dan Bana, appears to be a real person):

“David Barna, a Park Service spokesman, said the agency did not conduct its own count. Instead, it will use a Washington Post account that said 1.8 million people gathered on the US Capitol grounds, National Mall, and parade route. ‘It is a record,’ Barna said. ‘We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever.’”

There are an astounding number of conservative bloggers running with this today, all of whom are telling their readers that Saturday’s protest was the largest in D.C. history. (My personal favorite was the one mocking “Democrats and their media acolytes” who refuse to believe it.)

The problem, of course, is that the quote conservatives are so excited about referenced the Obama inauguration. The article that generated all of this right-wing excitement has a headline that reads, “Inaugural crowd size reportedly D.C. record.” The very first sentence in the article that the conservative bloggers relied on reads, “The National Park Service says it will rely on a media report that says 1.8 million people attended President Obama’s inauguration.”

Charles Johnson, himself a conservative blogger at Little Green Footballs, finds the right’s approach to this rather depressing. “This is so pathetic I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” he said, adding, “An epic, monumental fail.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.