President Trump is holding a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday.
It’s the first one he’s held since the coronavirus crisis erupted, and like everything he does, it’s attracted considerable criticism.
The main objection is that Trump shouldn’t be having the rally at all because mass gatherings are dangerous at a time when COVID-19 is still raging across America.
There’s certainly merit to that argument, especially when the US is seeing a spike in cases in many states.
And it’s an argument the mainstream media is keen to fuel.
‘President Trump plans to rally his supporters next Saturday for the first time since most of the country was shuttered by the coronavirus,’ tweeted NBC News, which prides itself on impartiality especially when it comes to politics.
‘But health experts are questioning that decision,’ it added, including a link to an Associated Press report headlined: ‘Extraordinarily dangerous: Trump rally draws grave concerns from top health officials. ‘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.’ said one official.’
President Trump plans to rally his supporters on Saturday for the first time since most of the country was shuttered by the coronavirus. Pictured: Trump speaks during a rally on March 2, his last rally since the pandemic
The rally for Black trans lives draws packed crowd to Brooklyn Museum plaza – As Black Lives Matter protests continue around the country
It was clear from TV footage of the rally that social distancing at the Brooklyn rally was almost non-existent
The AP report promoted by NBC News was full of negativity about the rally.
‘Trump’s rallies typically draw tens of thousands of supporters,’ it said, ‘They usually stand outside in line for hours before passing through airport-style security and cramming into an arena, where they sit side by side or stand shoulder to shoulder. The rallies are typically raucous, with much shouting, cheering and chanting.’
It quoted Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, who called the upcoming Trump rally ‘an extraordinarily dangerous move for the people participating and the people who may know them and love them and see them afterward.’
It also quoted Tulsa City-County Health Department’s director, Dr. Bruce Dart, who said he wished the rally would be postponed to a later date ‘when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.’
Dr Dart added: ‘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.’
This all seems perfectly reasonable.
Yet just 83 minutes earlier, the same NBC News had tweeted ‘Rally for Black trans lives draws packed crowd to Brooklyn Museum plaza – As Black Lives Matter protests continue around the country, throngs in New York City put a lens on the dangers facing the Black transgender community.’
It included a link to a report by one of its own staffers, the self-styled ‘breaking news reporter’ Doha Madani, whose opening paragraph read: ‘Protesters packed the courtyard of the Brooklyn Museum and surrounding parkway in New York City on Sunday in support of Black trans lives, merging the fight to protect two deeply marginalized groups.’
Madani wrote that ‘a swarm of attendees covered the plaza in front of the museum and took over the road on Eastern Parkway, likely in the thousands.’
After thousands turned up to the Black Trans lives matter rally in Brooklyn, Trump tweeted: ‘The Far Left Fake News Media, which had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters destroying Democrat run cities, is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies. Won’t work!’
There were, as per the concerns expressed about the forthcoming Trump rally, thousands of people crammed together at the Brooklyn’s trans lives matter rally, sitting side by side or standing shoulder to shoulder and the rally was raucous, with much shouting, cheering and chanting
It was clear from TV footage of the rally that social distancing was almost non-existent. There were, as per the concerns expressed about the forthcoming Trump rally, thousands of people crammed together, sitting side by side or standing shoulder to shoulder and the rally was raucous, with much shouting, cheering and chanting.
Yet not once did Madani mention any warning about mass gatherings of this type being dangerous due to coronavirus.
CNN’s far longer report on the same rally, written by Lauren Holt, was headlined, ‘Thousands show up for black trans people in nationwide protests,’ and also failed to make reference to any health expert warnings about the coronavirus-related dangers.
But in a separate report about Trump’s Tulsa rally, after the President tweeted ‘Almost One Million people request tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma!’, CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote that ‘Trump’s hyping of the Tulsa rally runs directly counter to what Oklahoma’s health experts are saying about it.’
And he too quoted Dr Dart: ‘COVID is here in Tulsa, it is transmitting very efficiently, I wish we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.’
Cillizza added: ‘Trump’s rally appears to directly violate his own administration’s guidance on large gatherings amid the (still) ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to the CDC, the ‘highest risk’ of Covid-19 transmission is posed by ‘large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.’
So exactly like the Black Trans Lives Matter rally then?
Trump, naturally, has seized on what he sees as brazen hypocrisy.
‘The Far Left Fake News Media, which had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters destroying Democrat run cities, is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies,’ he tweeted yesterday. ‘Won’t work!’
Aside from his typically ludicrous categorisation of my old network, he’s surely got a point about the double standard?
It’s true, as Cizzilla points out, that Trump’s rally is inside, not outside, and therefore, according to most current scientific advice, poses more of a risk to those who attend.
President Trump’s rally in Tulsa is reckless, particularly as it’s being led by the man who has presided over the worst COVID-19 death toll in the world
But it’s also true that both his rally and the Black Trans Lives Matter rally involve thousands of people congregating with very little social distancing for causes that they believe in, in direct contravention of CDC advice.
And it’s a fact that there was far more media criticism of Trump-supporters who flouted lockdown rules a few weeks ago to protest about infringement of their ‘freedom’ than there has been about any of the Black Lives Matter protests, including this latest one.
The two-faced attitude is best epitomised by Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., who tweeted last Monday that she had joined a ‘Healing and Hope’ rally ‘to speak with our community as America grieves.’
Three days later, she’d had a sudden dramatic rethink about rallies.
‘The president’s plan to hold mass rallies in Florida and elsewhere as we experience a resurgence in COVID cases is irresponsible and selfish,’ she tweeted.
I feel conflicted about the failure of Black Lives Matter protestors to socially distance. I passionately support the battle for racial equality in the wake of the horrific George Floyd murder, and the right to protest is a fundamental one in any democracy. I also buy into the justification one of my own sons gave me when he attended a BLM rally in London – that racism is a virus which is just as deadly as coronavirus, and George Floyd didn’t choose to be killed in the middle of a pandemic.
But given we now know that black Americans are the most susceptible to dying from COVID-19, it is undeniably reckless to amass in large numbers without making any real effort to stay apart, and with many not wearing masks or gloves.
I also feel that President Trump’s rally in Tulsa is reckless, particularly as it’s being led by the man who has presided over the worst COVID-19 death toll in the world.
We’re told that every attendee will receive a temperature check, hand sanitizer and a face mask before heading into the rally.
But holding a huge indoor event like this at a time of ongoing grave public health crisis in America is yet another irresponsible act by the President during this pandemic.
At the very least, he should move it to an outdoor venue.
However, you can’t support the BLM protests going ahead, with no criticism of the lack of social distancing, but say Trump’s rally should be banned on health grounds.
That’s just rank hypocrisy.