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Trump defends handling of pandemic at low turnout rally in Oklahoma

The president ignored health warnings to hold his first rally in 110 days.

2.54239229 PA Images PA Images

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump launched his comeback rally by defining the upcoming election as a stark choice between national heritage and left-wing radicalism.

Trump ignored health warnings to hold his first rally in 110 days, one of the largest indoor gatherings in the world during a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 120,000 Americans.

The rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was meant to restart his reelection effort less than five months before the president faces voters again.

“The choice in 2020 is very simple,” he said.

“Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob, or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?”

Trump unleashed months of pent-up grievances about the coronavirus, which he dubbed the “Kung flu”, a racist term for Covid-19, which originated in China.

He also tried to defend his handling of the pandemic, even as cases continue to surge in many states.

He complained that robust coronavirus testing was making his record look bad – and suggested the testing effort should slow down.

“Here’s the bad part. When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more cases,” he said.

“So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down.’ They test and they test.”

Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden tweeted later: “Speed up the testing.”

2.54239155 The president referred to the coronavirus as ‘Kung-flu’.

In the hours before the rally, crowds were significantly lighter than expected, and campaign officials scrapped plans for Trump to address an overflow space outdoors.

When Trump declared that “the silent majority is stronger than ever before,” about a third of the seats at his indoor rally were empty.

The president tried to explain away the crowd size by blaming the media for scaring people and by insisting there were protesters outside who were “doing bad things”.

But the small crowds of pre-rally demonstrators were largely peaceful, and Tulsa police reported just one arrest on Saturday afternoon.

2.54213121 Trump did not touch on the death of George Floyd.

Trump focused on cultural issues, including the push to tear down statues and rename military bases honouring Confederate generals following nationwide protests about racial injustice.

“The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalise our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments,” he said.

“They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new repressive regime in its place.”

Trump also floated the idea of a one-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of burning an American flag, an act of protest protected by the First Amendment.

After a three-month break from rallies, Trump spent the evening reviving his greatest hits, including boasts about the pre-pandemic economy and complaints about the media.

But his scattershot remarks made no mention of some of the current flashpoints, including the abrupt firing of a US attorney in Manhattan, the damaging new book from his former national security adviser John Bolton or the killing of George Floyd.

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