Trump defends handling of coronavirus, criticizes anti-racism protests in first rally in months

US President Donald J. Trump speaks during a rally inside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, 20 June 2020. The campaign rally is the first since the COVID-19 pandemic locked most of the country down in March 2020. EPA-EFE/ALBERT HALIM

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President Donald Trump, addressing a less-than-full arena for his first political rally in months, criticized anti-racism protests and defended his handling of the coronavirus on Saturday in an effort to reinvigorate his re-election campaign.

The president, who revels in large crowds and had predicted his first rally in months would be epic, complained that the media had discouraged attendees from coming and cited bad behavior from protesters outside but did not specifically acknowledge the fact that many seats in the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena were empty.

Trump sought to use the event to bring momentum back to his campaign after coming under fire for his responses to the coronavirus and to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.

The smaller-than-expected crowd robbed him, at least for now, of the ability to highlight enthusiasm for his candidacy as an advantage over his expected Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has eschewed large campaign events

Meanwhile, the President said during his address that he asked U.S. officials to slow down testing for the novel coronavirus, calling it a “double-edged sword” that led to more cases being discovered.

Trump said the United States had now tested 25 million people, far more than other countries. “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people you’re gonna find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down, please,” Trump told a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where many supporters were not wearing face masks.

A White House official said Trump was joking about his call for a slowdown in testing.

“He was obviously kidding. We are leading the world in testing and have conducted 25 million + in testing,” the official said.

Trump said his actions in blocking travelers from China and Europe had helped save “hundreds of thousands of lives.” But he said the “radical fake news” media had not given him credit for doing what he called “a phenomenal job” responding to the outbreak.

In fact, several U.S. states are reporting troubling spikes in coronavirus infection rates, mainly in the South.

CNN also reports that Trump said Covid-19 has more names than any other disease: “I can name Kung Flu,” he said using the racist term, “I can name 19 different versions of them.”

Reuters / CNN

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