- President Donald Trump held a rally indoors in Nevada on Sunday, in defiance of state coronavirus rules.
- At the event only supporters standing behind the president, who would appear in TV footage of the event, had to wear masks, the Associated Press reported.
- Livestream footage and pictures clearly show supporters off-camera were not wearing masks or practising social distancing.
- Nevada governor Steve Sisilak, a Democrat, accused the president of “reckless and selfish actions” that endangered lives.
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Breaching state coronavirus rules that ban indoor gatherings of more than 50 people, President Donald Trump held a packed indoor near Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday.
Most of the president’s supporters, according to reports and pictures of the event, attended the event inside a warehouse in Henderson without wearing masks, and did not practise social distancing.
But there was an exception.
According to the Associated Press, those standing directly behind the president, who would appear in TV news footage, were mandated to wear face coverings.
Pictures from live streams of the event, the White House pool report and from news organisations show supporters in the packed area in front of the stage where the president spoke. They mostly did not wear face coverings.
—Jérôme Cartillier (@jcartillier) September 14, 2020
The Trump campaign’s own footage of the rally shows many supporters in this area unmasked.
In contrast, images of the president’s hour-long speech show those gathered in a raised area behind the stage nearly all in face coverings, in compliance with mandates by state authorities.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move embodies the contradictory messages coming from the Trump campaign about the coronavirus, which has killed almost 200,000 Americans.
The president has sought to downplay the impact of the crisis, and in his speech Sunday railed against Nevada governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, calling on him to lift restrictions designed to slow the disease. Around 1,500 people in Nevada have died from COVID-19.
“You have a governor right now who is a political hack,” Trump told the audience. “Tell your governor to open up your state, by the way. Open up your state.”
The order for on-camera supporters to be masked may also represent a partial concession to authorities in Henderson, who have threatened to sue those responsible for staging the event in violation of state rules, CNN reported.
Earlier Trump, a campaign spokesman back at criticism of the president for staging an indoor rally, telling outlets including The Hill: “if you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States.”
He said that supporters would be encouraged to wear masks at the event, and that temperature checks would be conducted on attendees at the doors.
The rally was the first indoor Trump rally since a gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. The event was attended by businessman and former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, who shortly afterwards fell ill with the coronavirus and died.
In a statement Sunday night, Sisolak, accused the president of “reckless and selfish actions” that he said put lives in danger.