A New York Times reporter covering a rally for President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan, was kicked out of the event Thursday by the president’s campaign staff as she was detailing in real-time how individuals in the crowd were ignoring social distancing standards.
Kathy Gray, the Times reporter who attended the event, entered the crowd of Trump supporters to get a firsthand account of the rally and tweet her observations to social media followers.
The rally, which took place in an airport hangar and brought a crowd of around 5,000 Trump devotees, was “crammed,” according to Gray. Only about 10 percent of rally-goers were wearing masks, she added, defying Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for universal masking to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Crammed in crowd in the rain for trump rally in michigan. Not many masks pic.twitter.com/5DZ6JBVNK8
— Kathy Gray (@michpoligal) September 10, 2020
There is substantial evidence to suggest wearing facial coverings in settings where it’s not possible to practice six feet of separation from one person to the next can still vastly reduce the spread of the disease.
Less than 30 minutes after she started tweeting about the event, and just a few minutes after Trump had started speaking, Gray announced on her Twitter account that she had been removed from the rally by Trump’s campaign team.
“First for me: Trump campaign tracked me down from pics I tweeted and escorted me out,” she said.
According to The Hill, the Trump campaign had removed Gray because she was not a credentialed reporter. Gray was given the option to stay but not report on the event through social media, or to leave, the campaign staff said.
Gray said she had applied for press credentials, but the Trump campaign never responded to her request.
In response, the Times defended Gray and criticized event organizers for booting the reporter from the rally.
“We’re disappointed that the Trump campaign refused to credential our freelancer and then, when she registered and attended as a member of the public, they ejected her from the event,” the newspaper said.
During the event itself, it did not appear that Trump had any concerns about the size of the crowd, nor the way in which people were packed in tight close together. Indeed, his comments seemed to imply he was proud of the fact.
“This is not a crowd of a person who comes in second place,” Trump told his audience.
Prior to the rally, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) criticized the president for holding rallies without enforcing social distancing guidelines. “If the rallies are like those he’s held in recent days in other states, with lots of people close together without masks on projecting their voices, I’m concerned about it,” Whitmer said.
The rally in Freeland took place just two days after journalist Bob Woodward revealed the president understood in February that coronavirus was a matter of grave importance.
Trump told Woodward in February, for example, that he understood COVID-19 was a “deadly” virus. In subsequent weeks, however, the president publicly stated that the pandemic was nothing for Americans to worry about, claiming it would disappear “like a miracle,” and scolded those who criticized his relaxed approach to the pandemic as leveling a “hoax” against him for political reasons.
In mid-March, Trump once again spoke to Woodward, admitting that he was not being honest in his public statements about the seriousness of coronavirus. “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” he said.
As of Friday morning, nearly 6.6 million Americans have contracted coronavirus since the pandemic began, with more than 196,000 having died from the disease so far.