Thousands were crammed into a Trump campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan on Thursday. There were few masks in sight.
As CNN reporter Jim Acosta surveyed the crowd on why they were attending mask-free, some proudly justified their decision to attend without a mask as a way to take a stand against what has long been an overwhelming consensus among public health officials that wearing a mask can help protect against the spread of coronavirus. Others said it was outright “fake.”
“There’s no COVID. It’s a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America,” rally attendee, Rod Beebee, told Acosta when asked why he opted to attend the packed gathering unmasked.
Acosta pressed Beebee, saying that the President had admitted in leaked interviews with investigative journalist Bob Woodward that although he put on a false face in public suggesting the virus was “going to disappear” he had been briefed in private months before that the coronavirus was “deadly stuff.”
The Trump rally supporter remained adamant.
“That’s his opinion,” Beebee said, reeling off a long-debunked conspiracy theory that “only less than 10,000 people died from COVID,” while the other reported deaths had been caused by other factors.
From Trump's rally in Freeland, MI, last night:
CNN's Jim Acosta: "Why are you not wearing your mask?"
Rallygoer: "Because there's no COVID. It's a fake pandemic. Created to destroy the United States of America."
It gets even worse. pic.twitter.com/4c3KPqbYEO
— The Recount (@therecount) September 11, 2020
Another rally-goer, Daniel Guilder, contested that he wouldn’t wear a mask because “the good lord takes care of me.”
“If I die, I die. We have to get this country moving. What are you going to do wear a mask and stay inside for another year? Huh? What will that get you?” he said.
The anti-mask men were among a crowd approximated at 5,500 that included rally supporters flocking from across Michigan and other states to hail Trump’s visit. According to MLive.com, hundreds more remained outside the aircraft hangar after the venue reached capacity.
“Donald Trump wants to have it both ways,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) told reporters in a press call ahead of the event on Thursday. “He wants to pretend that he supports the important measures to protect public health, but he’s willing to put his supporters at risk if it helps him get reelected. He’s willing to let people get COVID-19 if it somehow advances his political goals.”
The anti-mask remarks from Thursday’s rally come on the heels of revelations from investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” which through 18 audio-recorded interviews over the course of eight months, among a range of key election issues, chronicles how President Trump was informed about the deadliness of the coronavirus, and then willingly misled the public in the months that followed.
Trump has justified what he’s called an effort to “play it down,” saying that he didn’t want to cause panic — and even suggesting Thursday that if Woodward, a journalist, took issue with his decision he should have reported on their conversations sooner.
But Trump has gone far beyond downplaying the virus. He reportedly intentionally misled the American public as part of a PR stunt to recapture votes ahead of the November election, for months mocking Democratic rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask and telling Fox News in interviews that children were “almost immune” to COVID-19. He’s also claimed that an overwhelming majority of those infected with coronavirus would have at most a minor case of “sniffles.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said during a news conference on Thursday that Trump’s interviews with Woodward about COVID-19, exposed his “contempt for his supporters.”
“He showed his contempt for the American people and their health, contempt for science,” Pelosi said. “Contempt for any real effort to crush the virus. Contempt for his supporters — their children, their parents.”