Donald Trump attempted to defend his decision to hold an indoor campaign rally in Henderson, Nevada, on Sunday by blaming Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) and ignoring the possibility that he’s risking Americans’ health.
Speaking with the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the rally, Trump didn’t answer a question about attendees potentially getting COVID-19; instead, he talked about how he isn’t putting his own health at risk.
Here’s the line of questioning from Review-Journal White House correspondent Debra Saunders:
Aren’t you concerned about getting COVID in an enclosed room?
“No, I’m not concerned.”
What about people here?
“I’m more concerned about how close you are,” he said, ignoring the question and gesturing to Saunders’ proximity.
Sorry about that.
“Because you know why?” Trump continued. “I’m on a stage that’s very far away. And so I’m not at all concerned.”
Nevada hasn’t permitted gatherings of more than 50 people since May, a guideline based on White House recommendations, so the Trump rally openly violated that order. Sisolak condemned the “reckless and selfish” action on Twitter.
The president claimed that Sisolak had prevented the campaign’s use of six outdoor venues, thereby forcing Trump to rally supporters inside the Xtreme Manufacturing facility, which Trump’s friend Don Ahern owns. The Trump campaign estimated that about 5,000 people attended.
However, the accusation that Sisolak was actively obstructing Trump from holding outdoor rallies doesn’t seem to hold water: Trump held an outdoor rally in northern Nevada just the night before. The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
While it is true the Trump campaign couldn’t hold a planned outdoor rally at a hangar near McCarran International Airport, it was the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority that canceled the event over concerns the 5,000-person rally would interfere with the airport’s normal operations. Sisolak disavowed any involvement in the decision.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” airport authority CEO Daren Griffin said in a statement to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “The letter we sent is about directives and safety and not political campaigns. We would hold our tenants to the same standard whether it was a Democratic or Republican rally or any other type of gathering.”
Trump last held an indoor rally in June in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the following weeks, according to Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart. It’s possible Herman Cain, who died from COVID-19 in July, contracted the virus at the event, which he boasted about attending without wearing a mask.