On Saturday, during his first official rally of the summer presidential campaign season, U.S. President Donald Trump praised his supporters for attending the event despite the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is still ravaging the United States.
Per Mediaite, Trump thanked the crowd of supporters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for coming, calling them “warriors.” The president praised the attendees for ignoring “fake news” media and attending the event even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.
“We begin our campaign, and I just want to thank all of you. You are warriors,” the president began.
“I have been watching the fake news for weeks now, and everything is negative: ‘Don’t go, don’t come, don’t do anything,’” he continued. “Today it was like — I have never seen anything like it, I have never seen anything like it.”
“You are warriors. Thank you.”
Public health experts have criticized Trump’s decision to hold a campaign rally in a closed space where COVID-19 could spread quickly. On Friday, CNN‘s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, warned that the event could cause an uptick of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
During his speech, Trump also alleged that “very bad people” were outside the arena, apparently alluding to a group of protesters.
“They were doing bad things. But I really do, I appreciate it. We have a tremendous group of people in Oklahoma,” he said.
According to multiple reports, there were protesters outside the venue, but local police seemingly handled the situation well, allowing the president’s supporters to freely enter the arena.
The president’s campaign manager Brad Parscale boasted earlier this week that more than 1 million Americans requested tickets for the event. However, footage from the rally shows that the turnout was in fact underwhelming, with sections of seating completely empty.
According to the Trump campaign, “radical protesters” and the media are to blame for the rally’s low attendance. “Thanks to the 1,000s who made it anyway!” Parscale tweeted.
As Vox reporter Aaron Rupar pointed out via Twitter, during his speech, Trump discussed the alleged protests, suggesting that his supporters are not as violent as the demonstrators.
"Our people are not nearly as violent, but if they ever were, it would be a terrible day for the other side. Because I know our people." -- Trump pic.twitter.com/1xDAPPixSy— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 21, 2020
Trump discussed a number of other pressing issues at the rally, touching upon the coronavirus pandemic. The president referred to COVID-19 as “Kung Flu,” and railed against testing.
Trump said that he has instructed his subordinates to slow down the testing as to not make the situation in the United States seem worse than in other countries.
The president has previously argued against widespread testing, recently suggesting that the United States would have “very few” COVID-19 cases if the testing stopped.