TULSA, Okla. (CN) — A substantially smaller than expected crowd showed up to President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Saturday night, disappointing a trailing reelection campaign seeking to reset during the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.
The BOK Center in downtown Tulsa appeared to be less than half full, with the upper bowl and standing room on the floor largely empty.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had tweeted on June 15 that more than one million ticket requests had been made for the rally. The basketball arena has a capacity of approximately 19,000 — the campaign was expecting as many as 200,000 people to be downtown and had erected a large stage and rallying areas outside in anticipation of the crowd. Those areas were later closed and taken down when it became apparent the crowd would not materialize.
Parscale blamed the low turnout on “radical protesters” who were “fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage” to allegedly stop Trump supporters from entering the arena.
“They even blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering,” he tweeted as Trump began speaking.
Inside the arena, there appeared to be no social distancing or mask wearing. The campaign had made assurances that it would provide attendees with masks, temperature checks and hand sanitizer.
Several hundred Trump supporters were seen on the streets outside the arena during the speech, suggesting they refused to go inside even with the abundance of empty seats.
In his two hour-long speech, Trump alternated between bragging about his handling of the pandemic and airing grievances against his enemies. He referred to Covid-19 with the term “kung flu.”
Trump bragged about reviving Oklahoma’s ailing energy industry, stating “we have turned us into the most dominant energy superpower” in the world.
“Because of the Chinese virus, it looked like we’re in big trouble,” Trump said, alluding to West Texas Intermediate oil prices cratering below zero as stay-at-home orders went into place. “But we got it back together. I called Russia, I called Saudi Arabia and believe it or not I called Mexico. It’s called OPEC+. It’s OPEC-plus-plus. We got oil back up to $40 a barrel, you have an oil business again.”
Trump complained that he does not get enough credit for halting flights to the U.S. from China and later Europe to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” he yelled. “We don’t even get a mention!”
Trump bizarrely admitted that he told his staff to slow down the rate of testing for Covid-19 to reduce the number of positive cases after bragging the country has tested 25 million people.
“When you do testing of that extent, you are going to get more people testing positive,” he said. “I told my people to slow the testing down. We have got a 10-year-old with the sniffles — we’ve got a case!”
Trump alluded to mass protests across the U.S. the past three weeks over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. The protesters have demanded measures to end systemic racism and police brutality and have torn down monuments to Confederate figures in several cities. Many are demanding changes to police department funding and want to channel the money to community and social services to better serve the public. Trump dismissed those calls, telling the crowd “you are so lucky I am president” right now.
“They want to destroy our heritage, they want to defund our police … Minneapolis, they are not kidding,” Trump said. “It’s one o’clock, a very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away as a traveling salesman. And you call 911 and they say ‘I’m sorry this number is no longer working.’ You have many cases like this, an old woman, a young woman, a young man ... these people are stone cold crazy.”