Cover: A prior Trump MAGA rally in Greenville, North Carolina
Tussling Over Attendance in Tulsa: President Trump returned to the campaign trail for the first time since March with a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday. During his one-hour and 41-minute speech, Trump warned against an attack on “our heritage,” preached a message of law-and-order, and sought to portray Joe Biden as weak on those issues and more. The President spoke about a “silent majority” while promising to stay tough on issues such as immigration, and talked about slowing down testing for COVID-19. This prompted Mr. Biden’s campaign to label Trump’s coronavirus comments as an “outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle of a rally.” Prior to Saturday, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, had said that he hoped to have 100,000 supporters at the rally inside and outside. Parscale also said that one million people had requested tickets. In reality, just 6,200 people attended the event according to the Tulsa Fire Department. On Sunday the New York Times reported that, “TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank. After the Trump campaign’s official account @TeamTrump posted a tweet asking supporters to register for free tickets using their phones on June 11, K-pop fan accounts began sharing the information with followers, encouraging them to register for the rally — and then not show.” Today we look at reactions to these claims from both sides.
On the Left: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) lauded the “teens on TikTok” for the effort and credited them for the lower than expected turnout at President Trump’s rally. Responding to a tweet by Brad Parscale blaming “radical protestors” for intimidating people at the rally, Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID.” “Shout out to Zoomers. Y’all make me so proud,” Ocasio-Cortez added. She also thanked “KPop allies” for their “contributions in the fight for justice” in a follow-up tweet. In terms of general headlines, CNN on Sunday led with: “White House on the defensive after Trump’s virus remarks.” The Washington Post added: “Trump heads to red-state America — and faces a sea of empty blue seats.” Lastly, the New York Times followed up with: “Trump Seeks a Cultural Safe Space Amid a Deadly Pandemic.“
On the Right: Joel Pollack of Breitbart on Sunday wrote that, “Democrats and Republican Never Trumpers are celebrating Chinese interference in the U.S. presidential election.” Pollack says that, “President Trump has rightly criticized [Barack Obama] for allowing Russian interference to take place in the 2016 election. Now he can be accused of allowing China to do the same. Regardless, the Tulsa fiasco is also a sign that China is the central issue in the 2020 campaign. China has siphoned away American jobs and production for three decades, a trend that President Donald Trump is the first Western leader to challenge. It flooded the U.S. with opioids, killing tens of thousands of people annually and creating millions of addicts. It allowed the coronavirus to spread internally, then internationally. Now China is meddling in U.S. elections. It has been interfering for decades, ever since the Chinese government funneled money to President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996. Now, in 2020, TikTok has emerged as an effective tool for dirty tricks.” Zooming out, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., told “Fox & Friends Weekend” that the mainstream media would have complained about the crowd size of President Trump’s campaign rally in Oklahoma on Saturday whether the arena was full or not. Zeldin said on Sunday that the media outlets who pointed out that there were empty seats inside the venue would have been “complaining that there are too many” people inside if the venue was fully occupied.
Flag This: In response to the reports that thousands of TikTok and K-Pop fans had registered for the rally, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale rejected the claims, saying that media organizations are complicit in spreading false narratives about the event. “Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” Parscale said. “Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed with a cellphone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool.” The real reason for the depressed turnout, which saw scores of upper-deck seats empty, was apparent, the campaign said. What will be interesting to watch over the next few weeks are any COVID-19 infection spikes in cities with large police brutality protests or Tulsa Oklahoma after Trump’s rally. It’s a double edged-sword. On one hand, we don’t want to see an uptick in infections after people gather. This may confirm fears of a second wave, which could lead to localized shutdowns, which would stall any economic recovery and could lead to more loss of life and loss of jobs. On the other hand, if we don’t see a spike after these massive gatherings, the American public will wonder why we stayed inside for two months and sabotaged the economy. This could lead to a further erosion of trust in experts and the government, which could prove harmful when and if a more potent coronavirus emerges in the future.