A reporter for The New York Times was kicked out of a rally for President Donald Trump in Freeland, Michigan, on Thursday after noting on social media that many of the president’s supporters were not wearing masks or keeping their distance despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kathy Gray, a correspondent for the Times, was on site for the airport rally attended by about 5,000 people. Just before Trump’s arrival, the reporter noted it seemed as if only about 10% of those gathered were wearing masks, saying people were “crammed in” as Air Force One landed.
About 30 minutes later and just a few minutes into the president’s speech, Gray said she had been kicked out.
“First for me: Trump campaign tracked me down from pics I tweeted and escorted me out,” she wrote on Twitter.
The White House did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for comment on Gray’s removal.
Trump has been under fire this week for his actions during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic after details from journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Rage,” were revealed. In the book, he says that the president knew about the dangers of COVID-19 in early February but publicly moved to, as he said in a taped interview, “play it down … because I don’t want to cause a panic.”
Trump has spent months urging the country to get back to normal despite high rates of infection in some states. More than 190,000 people in the U.S. have now died of COVID-19.
The crowd at the event mirrored the one that gathered Aug. 27 for Trump’s acceptance speech at the end of the Republican National Convention. About 1,500 people had gathered on the White House lawn, and most were seen crowded together while not wearing face masks.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said earlier this week that the prospect of a “maskless” rally in Michigan was “distressing to say the least.”
“We’ve pushed our curve down, we’ve saved thousands of lives, we’ve gotten people back to work,” Whitmer told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday. “And events like this threaten all that sacrifice that we’ve made. I would love to see the leader of our country embrace masks and encourage people to do the right thing.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, held his own event in Michigan this week. That event was closed to the public and attendees and journalists present were asked to remain in chairs spaced throughout a parking lot. Biden criticized the president ahead of his event on Thursday.
“Michiganders need a pandemic response,” Biden wrote, “not a pep rally.”
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