President Trump twice retweeted video of his supporters angrily confronting a local news reporter on Long Island who was covering an anti-lockdown protest while being chased away by one of them who was not wearing facial covering.
‘Great people!’ the president wrote in his tweet sharing video of the incident from Thursday.
Kevin Vesey, a reporter for the television station News 12 Long Island, was taunted and scorned by protesters in the Suffolk County town of Commack on Thursday who were waving pro-Trump flags and holding signs slamming Governor Andrew Cuomo and the stay-at-home orders.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Jericho Turnpike in Commack on Thursday after seeing a Facebook event organized by the Setauket Patriots, a right-wing organization that supports the president.
‘Who is King Cuomo to tell a business owner they can’t be open? Or that you have to wear a mask when you walk into his store?’ one protester told News 12.
Kevin Vesey (left), a News 12 Long Island reporter, posted video from a rally in Commack, New York, on Thursday. Supporters of President Trump are seen berating him as ‘fake news.’ One of them (right) kept approaching him without a mask while Vesey asked him to back away
‘I think you need to back away,’ Vesey told one protester, a man who appeared in his 40s or 50s wearing a Trump t-shirt and a red baseball cap. ‘I’ve got hydroxychloroquine, I’m fine,’ the man said as he continued to approach Vesey
The protesters demanded an end to the lockdown and a restarting of the economy
Video of the demonstrators confronting the reporter went viral on social media. It was twice retweeted by President Trump
‘People can’t get enough of this,’ the president tweeted on Saturday. ‘Great people!’
Vesey realized that his posts were being shared by Trump. ‘And just like that, I’ve been retweeted by the President,’ Vesey tweeted late on Friday
Vesey then tweeted on Saturday morning: ‘Ok, now I’ve been retweeted TWICE by President Trump. ‘This video has really struck a chord’
But the rally generated significant social media attention because of the anger directed at the reporter, Vesey.
The news report and videos later posted on social media show several of the protesters – most of them without face coverings – berate Vesey by repeating many of Trump’s frequent criticisms of the press.
Vesey’s video shows protesters breaking social distancing guidelines as they started to approach him so as to prevent him from filing a report through Facebook Live.
‘I think you need to back away,’ Vesey told one protester, a man who appeared in his 40s or 50s wearing a Trump t-shirt and a red baseball cap.
‘The level of anger directed at the media from these protesters was alarming,’ Vesey tweeted
Several of the protesters were not wearing masks or observing social distancing guidelines
Several of them criticized him for the media’s coverage of Trump
This protester said she saw through the media’s ‘liberal agenda’
Several of the protesters held signs denouncing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert
‘I’ve got hydroxychloroquine, I’m fine,’ the man said as he continued to approach Vesey.
‘I’m just standing here [and] this guy will not get away from me,’ Vesey said as he livestreamed the event.
Vesey then turns to the man and says: ‘Can you back away?’
‘No,’ the man replies.
Hydroxychloroquine is the anti-malaria drug treatment touted by Trump and his supporters as a possible treatment of COVID-19.
Health and medical experts, however, said that studies have shown the drug either has no effect on COVID-19 patients or can even cause serious complications and side effects.
Another protester at the rally who was wearing a face covering held a megaphone and started to approach Vesey.
‘Why are you [in the news media] essential?’ she yelled into the megaphone. ‘Why?’
Another woman with a megaphone and no face covering told Vesey: ‘You like to paint us as if we are a danger [while we are] outside.’
One of the protesters in Commack is seen wearing a Trump mask on Thursday
The protesters were gathered at Jericho Turnpike in Commack. The image above shows a motorcyclist driving past the demonstrations
Several of the protesters were waving American flags and wearing face masks in Commack on Thursday
The area was cordoned off by police from the Suffolk County Police Department
The event was organized on Facebook by a group known as the Setauket Patriots
Another protester holds an American flag in one hand and a sign in the other that reads ‘God is essential’
Many of the protesters gathered on a narrow sidewalk adjacent to Jericho Turnpike in Commack on Thursday
Several trucks with American flags attached to them are seen above as protesters gather nearby
Protesters hold signs that read ‘All jobs are essential’ and ‘Stop the spread of tyranny’ in Commack on Thursday
Another sign reads ‘Save Our Suffolk! Open it up now!’ in Commack on Thursday
Another protester accused Vesey and the press of portraying them as ‘murderers’ for being outdoors.
Vesey later posted a video on Twitter showing the demonstrators not adhering to social distancing while gathered on the narrow sidewalk.
One woman without a mask confronted Vesey, telling him: ‘You shouldn’t be here. You’re fake news.’
‘You stopped airing the Trump briefings and you’re airing the Cuomo briefings,’ the woman said.
‘Go home. You’re fake news.’
The woman was referring to the White House coronavirus task force press briefings that were discontinued by the Trump administration after the president’s advisers noticed that they were causing him more damage politically.
Trump’s briefings on the coronavirus made headlines after the president made bizarre claims like the possibility of using bleach disinfectant to treat COVID-19.
Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic.
Cuomo’s daily briefings on the coronavirus have been aired nationally on news networks, including Fox News and others.
The New York governor, a Democrat, has seen his popularity rise as the public credits him for his updates that some say project a calm style of leadership.
Cuomo this week extended the state’s lockdown until the end of May, though the governor did allow nonessential businesses in parts of New York State to gradually reopen after the regions met the criteria.
But the shutdown does not appear to be ending anytime soon in downstate New York, particularly in hard-hit areas like New York City, Nassau County, and Suffolk County, where Thursday’s protest took place.
Another protester shouted at Vesey: ‘You are the enemy of the people!’
Another woman said she was aware of the reporter’s ‘liberal agenda.’
A man walked by and said: ‘You used to be a good channel. I don’t know what happened to you.’
Another protester taunted the reporter, saying: ‘You’re a hack!’
The Setauket Patriots later issued an apology to Vesey, saying that those who chased him did not represent the organization.
‘We can tell you that the few who decided to harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affiliated with the Setauket Patriots group in any way shape or form,’ the group said.
‘We were looking forward to you giving us fair coverage with what you’ve documented when we first arrived.
‘But as with all mass rally events you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by police.’
No arrests were made at the rally.
Vesey’s social media posts showing the videos went viral. They were viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times over the course of Thursday and Friday.
Trump himself twice retweeted the videos.
In one caption, the president wrote in all caps: ‘FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!’
In the other caption, Trump wrote: ‘People can’t get enough of this. Great people!’
Vesey realized that his posts were being shared by Trump.
‘And just like that, I’ve been retweeted by the President,’ Vesey tweeted late on Friday.
Vesey then tweeted on Saturday morning: ‘Ok, now I’ve been retweeted TWICE by President Trump.
‘This video has really struck a chord.’
Cuomo announces start of reopening for northern and central New York State
Large swaths of central and northern New York state that appear to be at low risk of a COVID-19 surge are poised to start to reopening Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, urging businesses to prepare plans to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
While central New York, the Mohawk Valley, the Finger Lakes, the North Country, and the Southern Tier are expected to begin their reopening Friday, Cuomo said New York City, its surrounding suburbs and western and eastern counties have yet to meet the state’s criteria.
Cuomo’s plan allows construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, manufacturing and wholesale trade businesses to start reopening in the first phase. Retail stores can also provide curbside or in-store pickup or drop-off.
‘Big question to me is how many businesses choose to reopen tomorrow,’ Cuomo said.
The state is still advising residents to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable individuals.
And prohibitions on large gatherings of any size remain in effect.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (seen above in Albany on Friday) extended the lockdown for most parts of the state
Cuomo urged New Yorkers to proceed with caution.
‘There is no law or regulation that tells you how to interact with your personal relationships,’ he said.
‘That’s up to you. I hope you do it smartly.’
The state reported another 157 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in nursing homes and hospitals died on Wednesday.
The number of overall hospitalizations is continuing to gradually decline, but the average of new COVID-19 patients entering hospitals has ticked up for a third day to 420, up from 401.
New York’s shutdown of schools and nonessential businesses is officially in place through Friday under a Cuomo executive order.
Cuomo’s administration has divided the state into ten regions that must meet seven criteria that include a 14-day decline in or a small number of hospital deaths and hospitalizations before reopening.
Each region, led by teams of local representatives, must also make sure they provide enough testing and hire contact tracers among other conditions.
Regions will backtrack if it appears infection rates are increasing, according to Cuomo’s office, or move on to the next phases of re-opening after at least two weeks.
Cuomo’s administration says that re-opening businesses must come up with a written safety plan that outlines how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Cuomo has said hospitals must have a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment as the state re-opens, but it’s been unclear how the state will enforce that.
His spokesman said Thursday that ‘regulations are forthcoming.’