Because President Trump insists on holding some of his campaign rallies indoors during a pandemic, national networks and reporters have shifted the way they cover the 2020 election. That, in part, could answer the question of whether it’s safe to go to a Trump rally.
Many media companies told the Washington Post they don’t want to endanger reporters or engage in the community spread of COVID-19, so they’ve instructed their staff to report on rallies from outside the venues.
NBC News and CBS News told the Post that their networks “follow public health best practices” when deciding how to cover the news.
“We will continue to follow and monitor prevailing public health guidelines regarding large indoor gatherings as we have since the start of the pandemic,” an NBC News spokesperson said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that large in-person and indoor gatherings pose the highest risk for spreading COVID-19 in communities. Wearing a mask and staying at least six feet apart are two of the primary ways to curb the virus’ spread.
Many of Trump’s supporters downplay the risk of COVID-19 or deny it exists entirely, leading gatherings for Trump’s rallies filled with people not following CDC guidelines and making it less safe.
On Sept. 13, Trump held his first indoor rally in almost three months. Held in Henderson, Nevada, the rally was hosted inside the Xtreme Manufacturing warehouse and violated the state’s restriction of gatherings of 50 people or more, according to CNN. The venue was fined $3,000 for the event, and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak called Trump’s decision to host the rally “selfish and reckless” on Twitter.
No major network covered the rally. Even C-SPAN and Fox News didn’t broadcast it. Fox News opted to report from outside the venue with the rest of the reporters.
While live outside the venue, CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond said journalists chose to stay outside as a safety precaution.
“If you listen to every public health expert, that is what they would advise you to do, is to not an attend an event where you have thousands of people packed together inside in an indoor space where people are not wearing masks, where people are not social distancing,” Diamond said.
Not every member of the press has the luxury to report from outside the venue, however. According to the Post, members of the traveling White House press pool cover the rallies from inside the venue. This group of reporters takes turns staying close to Trump to “serve as the public’s eyes and ears, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” according to Zeke Miller, an Associated Press reporter.
In June, when Trump held his first indoor rally during the pandemic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, multiple experts said it was unsafe to attend. Three weeks after the rally, the city reported a surge in COVID-19 cases linked back to the rally, and former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who attended that rally and didn’t wear a mask, died a few weeks later from the coronavirus.
On Sept. 20, Trump’s coronavirus czar, Admiral Brett Giroir, didn’t comment specifically on the president’s fans not wearing masks at his rallies, but he did tell CNN, “Biology is independent of politics. If you cannot physically distance, all the docs, all the public health experts, all of us are really unanimous that it’s important to wear a mask when you can not physically distance, avoid the indoor crowded space, wash your hands, combined with smart testing.”
Despite those concerns, Trump was scheduled to head to Green Bay and La Crosse in early October for rallies, even though those two Wisconsin cities are hotspots in the state. It’s unclear if Trump will still travel there after he clears quarantine.
On Oct. 12, Trump returned to the campaign trail after his COVID-19 diagnosis, holding a rally in Sanford, Florida with many people not wearing masks. Said Trump: “I feel so powerful. I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women … everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.” Trump has also said at rallies that he now feels like a superhero after getting through his COVID-19 infection. That hasn’t made governors like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer feel much better. Two days before Trump was scheduled to make a stop in Lansing in late October, she said his rally was a “recipe for disaster.”