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Told that Trump loyalists must "assume a personal risk" to attend his Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally on Saturday amidst a local spike in Covid-19 cases, the White House and Trump have conceded people may get sick from the event. That likely includes journalists who will be herded into the city's 20,000-seat indoor sports arena to cover Trump's first rally in nearly four months. And that’s why they should stay home.
The scheduled event represents “an extraordinarily dangerous move," according to Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. "This seems like a terrible idea,” adds Dr. Alison Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the highest risk events for transmission of the coronavirus this way: “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.”
The rally has clear political implications for the White House. The ill-advised event comes at a time when aides tell the New York Times Trump has put the pandemic in the "rearview mirror" and is rarely updated about the country's struggle with the once-in-a-century national health crisis. The huge gathering also follows the recent White House Rose Garden Trump event where aides may have put reporters as risk by eliminating social distancing by placing their chairs shoulder-to-shoulder because it looked better on TV.
To date, there are no indication news outlets are going to take necessary, extreme precautions to cover the event. That suggests they're willing to put their own employees at risk. Instead, the press should skip the event, or send a small, skeletal pool crew to record Trump's speech. News outlets can set up a couple cameras, turn them out, and walk out. That way if something newsworthy happens, it will get reported.
Why risk personal health to have journalists in Tulsa to hear Trump lie without pause as he always does at his rallies, relitigate the 2016 election, and pick petty fights with his rivals during incoherent asides. All while he receives nonstop free airtime for his partisan attacks.
Worse, it's guaranteed that many of the assembled press corps will whitewash the contents of the rally, in an effort to make Trump appear not so crazy, as so often happens.
"For media outlets that view themselves as above taking sides, attempts to provide a sober, “balanced” look at presidential speeches often end up normalizing things that are decidedly not normal," wrote Vox's Aaron Rupar in January, detailing the shortcoming of Trump rally coverage. Rather than use the rallies to shine a spotlight on his pathological, lying ways, most of the coverage simply regurgitates Trump’s misinformation and frames it as legitimate news.
CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale last year stressed how out of whack the rally coverage is, in that most of lies and insane Trump comments are just glossed over. "I can't tell you the number of times I've fact-checked a Trump rally where he's made 15, 20, 25, sometimes even 30 false claims and then I'll go read the coverage of the rally," said Dale. “And not only is that not the focus, it's not even mentioned."
Here's the dirty little secret about Trump rally coverage: The events provide media outlets with lots of content—but not much news, and there's a big difference.
Meanwhile, the conservative media are yelling "hypocrisy" at critics who complain the Trump rally shouldn’t be held during a pandemic. They point to a month worth of massive Black Lives Matter protests, which were sparked by the murder of George Floyd, when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed. There are obvious differences between the protests and Trump's rally, the main one being that the racial injustice events were held outside, and medical experts agree outdoor gatherings carry less risks.
"Outside is better than inside," White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week, noting that the virus spreads more easily in crowded, poorly ventilated, indoor spaces than it does at outdoor rallies. That's why the Tulsa arena hosting Trump's rally, the Bank of Oklahoma Center, had previously canceled all events through the end of July. And that's why concerts and sporting events with large indoor crowds are essentially banned coast to coast.
Also a huge numbers of Black Lives Matter protesters and marchers wore masks, whereas Trump supporters purposely vow not to cover their faces to protect from the virus, because lots of them say the pandemic is a "hoax" and an attack on their "liberties." In terms of the Covid-19 virus, the Black Lives Matter protests did not pose a physical threat to journalists, the way the Trump rally does. Sadly, journalists faced a bigger threat from the police, who targeted reporters at marches and protests.
Just because Trump is comfortable putting his supporters at risk with an indoor rally in a city experiencing a spike on Covid-19 cases, doesn’t mean journalists need to endanger themselves, too.
NASCAR's recent announcement that it's banned the confederate flag from being flown at its racing events continues to be a seismic culture marker as the Black Lives Matter protests continues. The overdue decision was driven by NASCAR's lone black driver, Bubba Wallace.
Wall Street Journal's sports columnist Jason Gay delivers an insightful look into the story with his piece, "Nascar Is Changing. It Can Thank Bubba Wallace":
For all of its rebellious roots, Nascar today is a sponsor-driven sport where drivers hesitate to say or do anything that could unsettle corporate money. But for the North Carolina-raised Wallace, these choices felt natural. The tide was shifting. He was hoping more sponsors might come aboard his team.
“If you know me, I don’t hold back,” he said. “I take what I can get, and whatever falls. And I stepped over the line a lot. There’s some things that I wish I could go back [on], but at the end of the day, I stand up for what’s right, stand up for what I believe in.”
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Carly Simon, "Let the River Run"
In honor of this week's U.S. Supreme Court DACA decision, a classic pop song about the power of "dreamers":
Let the river run
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation
Come, the New Jerusalem