Three Republicans on Sunday appeared to be full-steam ahead when asked about President Trump’s first re-election campaign rally in three months amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump is scheduled to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma next Saturday in what will be his first rally since early March. The President delayed his upcoming rally by a day after facing backlash for originally scheduling it on Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.
Backlash over the risk of spreading COVID-19 at the Tulsa rally remains, however. On Saturday, Tulsa city-county health department director Bruce Dart expressed concerns over the spread of COVID-19 at the upcoming rally in an interview with Tulsa World, saying that he wishes “we could postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern as it is today.”
“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,” Dart told Tulsa World. “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.”
The Trump campaign has yet to outline coronavirus safety measures ahead of the rally set for next weekend, which will be held indoors at a 19,000-seat arena despite Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale boasting in a Friday tweet that 300,000 people registered for tickets to Trump’s Tulsa rally. CDC guidance places large gatherings without social distancing measures in the category of “highest risk” of spreading COVID-19.
Here’s how three Republicans downplayed COVID-19-related concerns ahead of Trump’s Tulsa rally:
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
Asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos about whether it’s time for the President to postpone his upcoming rally in Tulsa in light of Dart’s remarks, Lankford said he does not believe so due to declining numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Oklahoma.
“Our deaths continue to decline and we encourage people that are high risk not to get involved in any location, whether that be a rally or other higher risk locations,” Lankford said. “So, high-risk folks need to be able to step back and everybody needs to be able to take responsibility for their own health.”
After conceding that he’s unsure of how social distancing will work at the Tulsa rally — saying that it “will up to be the city of Tulsa, this will be the governor of Oklahoma and the Trump team itself” to figure out how safety measures will work — Lankford said that he will “absolutely” be in attendance.
Watch Lankford’s remarks below:
JUST IN: Sen. James Lankford backs Trump rally in Oklahoma as Tulsa health director warns of health risks.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 14, 2020
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson
Pressed also by Stephanopoulos about Dart’s remarks, Carson was asked about his reaction given how he’s a medical doctor.
After claiming that he was “pleasantly surprised” by how much Trump knew about Juneteenth, Carson said that the President’s re-election rally can be “quite acceptable.”
“I think if it’s done in conjunction with the public health experts — which it is being done in conjunction with them — that’s quite acceptable,” Carson said. “We do need to always, all of us, need to do what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it is very important that we utilize what we have learned about the disease so that we can live with it, rather than allow it to dominate us and determine how we’re going to live.”
Watch Carson’s remarks below:
HUD Secretary Ben Carson tells @gstephanopoulos that he spoke with President Trump about the campaign rally initially scheduled in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth: “It’s probably good to have moved it.” https://t.co/av1o0DGeWq pic.twitter.com/sytFderS0n
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 14, 2020
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow
After agreeing with CNN’s Jake Tapper that people need to continue practicing safety guidelines such as social distancing and face covering in light of the rise of coronavirus cases in several states, Kudlow — who falsely asserted that COVID-19 was “contained” in early March — was asked whether people should be wearing masks at Trump’s upcoming rally in Tulsa.
“Well, OK, probably so,” Kudlow said, before speculating that the rise of hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus are due to how elective procedures now being permitted.
“And maybe, most importantly, Jake, although the case rate has increased a bit, we’re not talking about a second round here,” Kudlow said.
Watch Kudlow’s remarks below:
Kudlow replies "probably so" when asked whether Trump rally attendees should wear masks pic.twitter.com/RpdF9rXtPw
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) June 14, 2020