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Thursday, Dec 03, 2020

Trump at comeback rally: 'The silent majority is stronger than ever before'

Donald Trump ignores COVID-19 warnings and goes ahead with a comeback rally as the pandemic continues to ravage the country.

US President Donald Trump has declared that "the silent majority is stronger than ever before" as he held his first rally since March.

But it appeared that many of his "silent majority" had stayed at home, amid warnings from health officials about the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The rally at the BOK stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had been promoted as a comeback opportunity for Mr Trump - a chance to boost his campaign for re-election in November.

He is currently behind Democratic rival Joe Biden in many polls.

The stadium has a capacity of 19,000 but organisers had said that only 10,000 people would be allowed to enter.

But in the hours before Mr Trump started speaking, crowds appeared to be significantly lighter than expected and campaign officials scrapped plans for him to first address an overflow space.

Mr Trump blamed the news media for saying "don't go, don't come, don't do anything", adding: "We begin our campaign... the silent majority is stronger than ever before."

He also blamed a group of Black Lives Matter protesters outside, a group also smaller than expected but largely peaceful, described by him as "the unhinged left-wing mob".

The Trump campaign's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, had said earlier: "Sadly, protesters interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally.

"Radical protesters, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the president's supporters. We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out."

Mr Trump also told the crowd that he had "saved hundreds and thousands of lives" by closing the US off to flights from China at the end of January.

He went on to describe testing for the coronavirus as a "double-edged sword", saying that 25 million people had been tested in the US but "when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases, so I said to my people 'slow the testing down please'".

A White House official said later that Mr Trump was "obviously kidding" with that remark.

The US is still struggling to contain COVID-19, leading many to question the wisdom of holding the rally, even if social distancing and mask-wearing were encouraged.

Just hours earlier, it had been revealed that six members of Mr Trump's campaign team had tested positive for coronavirus.

Those in attendance were even asked to waive their rights to sue the Trump campaign should they catch the virus, which has killed 463,000 people worldwide, including almost 120,000 in the US.

At least 10,040 people have tested positive in Oklahoma and 368 people have died.

Ahead of the rally, Sky's correspondent Mark Stone, who is in Tulsa, said the county had reported its highest number of virus cases that day.

He added: "And so with that backdrop, I think by any measure it is an unusual decision by Donald Trump and his team to hold the rally in the stadium."

He added: "Some people here are wearing masks, but most people are not and on top of that, many are actually asking us why we are wearing masks - inferring that as part of the 'fake news' we are compounding what they see as a fake virus."


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