In just the past week, President Donald Trump has made the absolutely asinine decision to hold two indoor rallies at a time when COVID-19 has killed more than 194,000 Americans.
The first, a rally at an XTreme Manufacturing facility in Nevada, packed in 5,600 people, mostly maskless with no social distancing requirements, earning that company a $3,000 fine for violating the state’s guidelines.
The second, a gathering of around 100 supporters in a hotel ballroom in Arizona, also did not require masks or social distancing.
“I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” Trump said in an interview. “I’m not at all concerned.” About his own safety, that is.
The events themselves and Trump’s nonchalance about them paint a grotesque picture of a president who has learned nothing from his past mistakes and is uninterested in correcting them if he had. A June rally in Oklahoma has been linked to a coronavirus spike in the area weeks after.
But Trump’s brazenness — which comes even as his own advisers warn against the rallies — isn’t just the result of his own ego, petulance and incompetence. He’s also exploiting a gaping hole left open by the left, many in the media and even some scientists, who gave and continue to give anti-police and Black Lives Matter protests a COVID pass.
This has happened since the spring, when protesters first took to the streets over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, and has continued through the summer with protests in New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Over and over these protests earned little scrutiny for their potential to spread coronavirus, despite the fact that the Center for Infectious Disease found they did in a few discrete cases.
The justification among activists was that the cause was more important than COVID-19, which you can agree with while also noting Trump supporters might say the same.
Many in the media insist that Trump’s indoor rallies are worse than outdoor protests — and scientists would agree, but they would also warn against large, maskless gatherings outdoors, too, as Anthony Fauci and others repeatedly have.
Other public health officials let their politics get in the way of common sense. New York City Council Health Committee Chairman Mark Levine tweeted, “Let’s be clear about something: if there is a spike in coronavirus cases in the next two weeks, don’t blame the protesters. Blame racism.”
One Oklahoma Democratic Party rep claimed that the protests were simply more righteous than the rallies: “Going to a rally for somebody that you already planned to vote for does not compare to the millions of people all over the world that are fighting for racial justice.”
Even some scientists advocated for mass protests in spite of COVID-19, with one claiming, “there are risks with just being Black in this country that almost outweigh (COVID-19) sometimes.”
These may be well-meaning and impassioned, but they aren’t serious justifications for a clear double-standard in coverage, tolerance and advice. And for many Trump supporters, it reeked of dishonesty.
It sparked a wave of angry headlines like this one from Fox News: “Coronavirus double standard — liberal media declare protests more sacred than church.”
It’s led to a growing distrust of scientists by the right.
It led to resentment over clear double standards. As Never-Trump author and professor Tom Nichols put it, “It’s just another way of saying ‘Your First Amendment protest was wrong, but mine is right.”
And, worse, it’s led to a truly imbecilic backlash, like an anti-mask protest in Utah, in which supporters compared mask-wearing in school to child abuse, and made head-scratching claims like, “Safety is not as important as our freedom and liberty.”
All this helps Trump and his surrogates shrug off his dangerous indoor rallies. It’s a continual cycle of stupidity. The left forgives, excuses or ignores its own unsafe behaviors, and Trump exploits it to permit his own even worse behavior.
As Susan Sontag once wrote, “(o)ne person’s barbarian is another person’s ‘just doing what everybody else is doing.’”
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.