President Donald Trump is moving forward with a rally to kick off his reelection campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, June 20 against the advice of the state’s top health official, after a similar disagreement led to the relocation of the Republican presidential convention.
On Monday morning, the president blamed “Far Left Fake News Media” for criticizing his decision to host the rally, even as coronavirus cases in Oklahoma and Tulsa County continued to spike through the weekend.
Trump said the media was shaming him for hosting “our big Rallies” but “had no Covid problem with Rioters and Looters” — referring to the hundreds of mostly peaceful police brutality and #blacklivesmatter protests that have occurred nationwide in the last several weeks.
Trump relied on “big rallies” as the backbone for his 2016 presidential campaign and has continued to hold them on occasion throughout his time in office, but he couldn’t hold similar events in recent months due to the pandemic. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Sunday morning that the event has yielded the “biggest data haul” for Trump 2020 — referring to the collection of demographic and contact information from people who reserved tickets.
Parscale announced Monday that each rally participant will be given hand sanitizer and a mask and will have their temperature taken before entering Tulsa’s BOK Center.
Oklahoma’s top health official said he wished the rally could be delayed until a safer time.
“I think it’s an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic,” Oklahoma State Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Dart told local newspaper Tulsa World on Saturday. “I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.”
The state health department reported record daily increases of coronavirus cases in the state and Tulsa County on Friday and Saturday, according to Tulsa World. As of Monday morning, the health department was tracking more than 8,400 total cases and had registered 359 deaths due to COVID-19.
“I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today,” Dart added.
The campaign has already been forced to reschedule the rally that was first planned for June 19 — also known as Juneteenth, the celebrated date of the end of slavery in America. The administration only chose to push the rally back 24 hours after it met resistance from political supporters, The Associated Press reported.
The administration’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that Americans practice social distancing, wear cloth face masks in public and “remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.”
Concerns over the coronavirus also affected plans for the Republican presidential convention. On Thursday, the Republican National Committee announced the event where the president will be formally introduced as the nominee was moved to Jacksonville, Florida, after the RNC and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper disagreed on precautions for the convention.
Cooper, a Democrat, demanded the RNC have a pandemic safety plan for the late-August convention, The Washington Post reported.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis went on “Fox & Friends” — a Fox News show often watched by Trump — on June 4 to say Florida would host the convention.
“We want to get to ‘yes’ on it,” DeSantis told the hosts. “Let’s be creative and figure out a way to do it.”
Florida has been hit hard by the coronavirus with more than 77,000 total cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, the state health department reported Monday.