President Donald Trump, addressing less-than-full arena for his first political rally in months, blasted anti-racism protests and defended his handling of the coronavirus on Saturday in a bid to reinvigorate his re-election campaign.
The president, who revels in large crowds and had predicted that his first rally in months would be epic, blamed the media for discouraging attendees and cited bad behavior by demonstrators outside, but did not specifically acknowledge that many seats in the 19,000-seat BOK Center arena were empty.
Trump sought to use the event to bring momentum back to his campaign after coming under fire for his responses to the coronavirus and to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police.
The smaller-than-expected crowd robbed him, at least for now, of the ability to highlight enthusiasm for his candidacy as an advantage over his expected Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has eschewed large campaign events.
Trump has brushed aside criticism for his decision to hold his first rally since March 2 in Tulsa, the site of the country’s bloodiest outbreaks of racist violence against Black Americans some 100 years ago.
The president, who has encouraged a militaristic response to the nationwide demonstrations while being accused of showing a lack of empathy for the plight of Black Americans, used his speech to take aim at some of the protesters.
“The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments - our beautiful monuments - tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We're not conforming, ”Trump told cheering supporters.
Ahead of the Nov. 3 election the Republican president is trailing in opinion polls to Biden, who has hammered Trump for his response to the protests and the pandemic.