President Donald Trump is receiving backlash for holding a large, indoor campaign rally Sunday night in Nevada despite statewide coronavirus-related mandates.
The event — held inside a facility owned by Xtreme Manufacturing in Henderson, which is near Las Vegas — was the president’s first indoor rally in months. It came as COVID-19 has infected more than 6.5 million and killed more than 194,000 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The political rally also violated Nevada’s COVID-19 regulations, which limit crowd sizes to 50 people and require the use of face coverings and social distancing to mitigate the spread of the contagious virus.
City officials sent a letter and issued a verbal warning to event organizers ahead of the rally, saying it would violate the mandates, local outlet KLAS reported Sunday.
On Monday, the city said in a statement it has fined the host company $3,000 for violating the regulations.
A compliance officer at the event saw six violations and that the company has 30 days to pay or dispute the fine, according to the statement.
“Henderson’s case counts for patients testing positive for COVID-19 are by far the lowest amongst Southern Nevada’s jurisdictions and the City of Henderson would like to thank the businesses and residents who have followed the state guidelines to stay safe and healthy so that we can reopen all businesses and get people back to work,” the statement said.
The president’s aides had said every attendee would have their temperature checked upon arrival and be given a face mask and access to hand sanitizer, NBC News reports.
But video posted on Twitter by the Trump campaign and other officials shows a packed crowd with no social distancing and many attendees not wearing masks.
— Team Trump (Text VOTE to 88022) (@TeamTrump) September 14, 2020
President @realDonaldTrump speaking to Great American Patriots in Henderson, Nevada at a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN RALLY!
Moments ago, POTUS in response to Sleepy Joe’s FAKE military commercials:
“THE GLOVES ARE OFF!”#TrumpPence2020 #MAGA pic.twitter.com/teX0PVPRB5
— Dan Scavino (@DanScavino) September 14, 2020
Additionally, the Associated Press reports only attendees in the stands directly behind the president — who would appear on television — were required to wear masks.
Now, the president is facing sharp criticism for holding the rally.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak tweeted Sunday night that the president was “taking reckless and selfish actions” and putting lives at risk by holding the rally. He also wrote that the president “appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.”
He went on to say Trump chose not to respect Nevada’s laws and “doesn’t believe the rules apply to him.”
“This is an insult to every Nevadan who has followed the directives, made sacrifices, and put their neighbors before themselves,” the governor tweeted. “It’s also a direct threat to all of the recent progress we’ve made, and could potentially set us back.”
That means limiting gathering sizes, mandating face coverings and practicing social distancing. All of which the President recklessly disregarded for his own gain this weekend in Nevada.
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) September 14, 2020
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, medicine and surgery professor at George Washington University and medical analyst for CNN, said during an interview on CNN Sunday afternoon the rally was “negligent homicide.”
“What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the deaths of others?” he said.
“Negligent homicide. What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the deaths of others? ...People will die as a consequence of this.” --@JReinerMD on the impact of President Trump holding an indoor rally tonight. pic.twitter.com/nLpinuJrzr
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) September 13, 2020
But the Trump campaign defended its decision to hold the rally, pointing to protests held earlier this year.
“In Nevada, it seems the 1st Amendment only applies to certain expressions of speech. In June, the governor happily provided guidance to protesters,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the campaign, tweeted Monday, referencing the governor’s support of “legal observers” offering legal advise to Black Lives Matter protesters.
In Nevada, it seems the 1st Amendment only applies to certain expressions of speech.
In June, the governor happily provided guidance to protesters.
But now somehow the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to people who peacefully gather to hear from the President of the United States. https://t.co/bnHd28PDhs
— Tim Murtaugh - Download the Trump 2020 app today! (@TimMurtaugh) September 14, 2020
Reiner responded to the Trump campaign’s defense..
Apparently Trump’s campaign believes that since there were riots this summer it’s only fair that the president be allowed to kill some of his supporters by exposing them to superspreader events. https://t.co/tytAMEvDBE
— Jonathan Reiner (@JReinerMD) September 13, 2020
The rally comes just days after recordings surfaced of the president admitting to journalist Bob Woodward that he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus as it started to spread in the United States. In the recordings, obtained by CNN, the president called the virus more deadly than the flu. But he has publicly and repeatedly compared it to the flu to downplay the pandemic while arguing the country shouldn’t shut down in response and saying at least 33 times that the virus would just go away as case numbers continued to rise.
The White House has defended the president’s comments, saying his goal was to avoid panic. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called Trump’s comments a “life and death betrayal of the American people.”
This isn’t the first rally for which Trump has faced backlash amid the coronavirus pandemic. In June, he held a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, despite the wishes of local health experts, McClatchy News previously reported.
The event has since been blamed by health experts for “more than likely” contributing to a subsequent surge in cases in the area, Axios reports.