President Donald Trump’s June 20 MAGA rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma was expected to draw more than 19,000 people. But according to the Tulsa Fire Department, fewer than 6200 people attended. Trump’s campaign has disputed that number, yet the fact is that the rally wasn’t nearly as well-attended as the president hoped it would be. Reporters Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni examine the possible reasons for the poor attendance in an article for the New York Times.
During the rally, the Times journalists explain, Trump gave a “meandering performance in which he excoriated the ‘fake news’ for reporting on health concerns before his event, used racist language to describe the coronavirus as the ‘kung flu’ and spent more than 15 minutes explaining away an unflattering video clip of him gingerly descending a ramp after his commencement speech at West Point.”
When Trump saw the size of the crowd and all the empty rows inside the arena, Haberman and Karni note, he was “stunned” and “yelled at aides backstage while looking at the endless rows of empty blue seats in the upper bowl of the stadium, according to four people familiar with what took place.”
Trump supporters have offered a variety of reasons for the low turnout. Some have claimed that anti-Trump protestors outside the area discouraged people who had registered from going inside; others have claimed that fans of K-pop (a type of pop music from South Korea) trolled the event. And Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, blamed the media. Parscale asserted, “The fact is that a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of COVID and protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally.”
According to Haberman and Karni, “Several White House officials called the rally a disaster, and an unforced error that heightened tensions among some of the president’s government advisers and his campaign aides…. The campaign had hoped to use the Tulsa event as a reset after the president’s slide in the polls in the wake of his administration’s failures responding to the coronavirus, and after his stoking of racial tensions amid nationwide protests over police brutality prompted by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.”
The outdoor stage for @realDonaldTrump’s Rally in Tulsa being built. This will be the 1st time that POTUS speaks t… https://t.co/SCA5taZlFj— Brad Parscale (@Brad Parscale) 1592615217.0
Parscale claimed that the mainstream media went out of their way to frighten people away from the event because of coronavirus. But as Haberman and Karni point out, the fear of being infected with coronavirus was a perfectly legitimate concern — especially for Trump’s older supporters. And the fact that so many people were sitting close together in an indoor environment without wearing masks is certainly troubling.
The Lament of Brad Parscale, After Being Fired by Donald Trump There once was a grifter named Brad Who after Tulsa… https://t.co/E6ECGXniwb— Bill Kristol (@Bill Kristol) 1592697108.0
Haberman and Karni note that since the rally, Trump’s campaign has been “fielding calls from nervous donors and Republican lawmakers, who were asking whether the poorly attended rally indicated problems that were too big to fix with just over four months until Election Day.” And they conclude their article by wondering if there will be some firings on Trump’s campaign.
It was “not clear if there would be a personnel switch because of the disastrous optics, but some officials recalled what happened in 2017, after an event in Arizona that did not go as Mr. Trump had hoped,” Haberman and Karni explain. “George Gigicos, one of the original campaign hands and his rally organizer, was fired by the president.”