President Trump accused the media and liberals of trying to “Covid shame” his campaign into canceling a planned rally, saying his critics didn’t express similar health concerns over massive protests against racial injustice.
The president tweeted that the “far-left” news media “had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters destroying Democrat run cities.” But he said the media is “trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies. Won’t work!”
Many news outlets have been reporting on health officials’ concerns about the coronavirus spreading in large, indoor gatherings such as Mr. Trump’s next rally, scheduled for Saturday at the BOK arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma. About 19,000 people are expected to attend.
But Mr. Trump and his supporters say the media didn’t raise the same concerns about massive street protests against police brutality, in which demonstrators were often packed together, often not wearing masks.
During a White House event Monday intended to shore up the president’s sagging support among seniors, Mr. Trump emphasized his administration’s efforts to protect older Americans from the coronavirus in settings such as nursing homes.
“We have to keep all of our seniors safe, this is a very perilous time,” the president said.
Some health experts said an indoor campaign rally isn’t a safe place, especially for people who are age 50 or older.
“It’s not elderly, but it’s still higher risk, and above 60 is much higher risk,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “I think that it is liable to cause deaths. What rally is worth people dying?”
But the Ivy League educator also expressed the opinion that the outdoor protests roiling the country are not as risky to the health of demonstrators, and that they were more important than campaign rallies.
“There are times in history when moments have to be seized,” Mr. Mina told reporters in a conference call. “Those [demonstrations] do run a risk, but at the very least they’re outdoors, and there’s no other way to have those happen. To have an indoor rally intentionally, at this very moment in time, is just not smart. It puts people at risk.”
The Trump campaign said Monday it has received more than 1 million requests for tickets to the rally, even as the top health official in Tulsa warned that people could contract COVID-19 in the enclosed arena.
Campaign Manager Brad Parscale said each attendee will be issued masks and get a temperature check before entering on Saturday. They also will get hand sanitizer.
It’s Mr. Trump’s first rally since March 2, when the coronavirus crisis forced shutdowns around the country.
Oklahoma has relatively few cases of COVID-19. But the Tulsa City-County Health Department’s director told the Tulsa World last weekend that he wished the Trump campaign would postpone the rally because of a “significant increase in our case trends.”
“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,” Dr. Bruce Dart said.
The president said liberals and the news media are trying to shame him into canceling his rallies, while they didn’t complain about protesters congregating to demonstrate over police brutality. He said Oklahoma’s level of COVID-19 cases is relatively low and Vice President Mike Pence said officials feel “very confident” in holding the rally this weekend.
The president said he hopes to fill a 40,000-seat convention hall with overflow supporters adjacent to the rally arena.
“We’ve never had an empty seat, and we certainly won’t in Oklahoma,” Mr. Trump said.
The demand for tickets is another indication of the enthusiasm gap between Mr. Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this month found that 69% of the president’s supporters said they were “very enthusiastic” about supporting him, but only about half that number — 34% — of Mr. Biden’s supporters said the same.
The 19,000-seat arena in Tulsa has canceled all other events through the end of July due to coronavirus precautions.