As coronavirus cases continue to increase nationwide, President Donald Trump is drawing criticism for his Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma from a number of angles, including his suggestion that he encouraged officials to slow down testing for Covid-19 and his unauthorized use of a song to promote "a campaign of hate."
Trump said at the rally that the nation has tested 25 million people. "When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases."
"So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please.' They test and they test," said Trump.
CNN's Jake Tapper said Sunday that "the president is revealing that he seems to see this primarily as a public relations crisis, not as a deadly pandemic," and took a jab at what he framed as the Trump's "glib indifference and a myopic focus on bad headlines" rather than efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“Once again the President is revealing that he seems to see this primarily as a public relations crisis, not as a deadly pandemic.” @jaketapper on President Trump’s claim that he ordered his administration to slow down coronavirus testing. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/nxeZR2mC81— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) June 21, 2020
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro claimed to Tapper on CNN that the comments about testing were "tongue and cheek."
A tweet Saturday night from Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) suggests that damage control may not be enough. "In case there's any question: Congress will be pursuing answers on this because the American people deserve to know if their president sabotaged efforts to detect and contain Covid-19 because he didn't like the results," wrote Krishnamoorthi. "The result he needs to focus on is the lives we can save."
Trump's comment came in the midst of continued grim figures about the virus's spread and human toll.
An ABC News analysis published Friday found that hospitalizations for Covid-19 were increasing in 17 states. One of those states is Florida, which on Saturday reported another record-high one-day increase in the number of cases. But Florida isn't alone, as the Washington Post reported:
Eight states on Saturday reported their highest single-day case counts since the pandemic began, and daily new infections nationwide exceeded 30,000 on both Friday and Saturday. The country has not seen daily totals that high in more than seven weeks.
The family of late rocker Tom Petty also sharply rebuked the Trump administration late Saturday when they announced that they issued a cease and desist notice to the campaign for its use of the song "I Won't Back Down" at the Tulsa rally.
"Trump was in no way authorized to use this song to further a campaign that leaves too many Americans and common sense behind," the family said in a statement posted on Twitter. As Rolling Stone noted, the statement is signed by Petty’s estate and rights holders—his daughters Adria and Annakim, his ex-wife Jane, and his widow Dana.
“Both the late Tom Petty and his family firmly stand against racism and discrimination of any kind. Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate," they said.
"We believe in America and we believe in democracy. But Donald Trump is not representing the noble ideals of either," the statement adds. "We would hate for fans that are marginalized by this administration to think we were complicit in this usage."
Trump's campaign event was the subject of mockery as well.
As Heather Cox Richardson noted at BillMoyers.com,
[Trump's] campaign manager, Brad Parscale, along with the president himself, has spent days crowing that almost a million tickets had been reserved, and the campaign had built an outside stage for overflow crowds.
But far fewer than the 19,000 people Tulsa's BOK Center could hold showed up: the local fire marshal said the number was just under 6,200. Young TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music (so-called “K-Pop stans”), along with Instagram and Snapchat users, had quietly ordered tickets to prank the campaign. The technological savvy of their generation has turned political: they knew that the Trump campaign harvests information from ticket reservations, bombarding applicants with texts and requests for donations. So they set up fake accounts and phone numbers to order the tickets, then deleted the fake accounts. They also deleted their social media posts organizing the plan to keep it from the attention of the Trump campaign.
The poor turnout after such hype was deeply embarrassing for the campaign.
The social media users' action drew applause from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who told Parscale that the activists "tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during Covid."
"Shout out to Zoomers," she tweeted. "Y'all make me so proud."