Donald Trump appears at first public event since coronavirus diagnosis at White House
US President Donald Trump has claimed coronavirus is “disappearing” as he appeared maskless before hundreds of supporters for his first public event since contracting COVID-19.
Appearing from the White House balcony at the event on Saturday, billed as a “peaceful protest”, Mr Trump declared, “I am feeling great.”
Mr Trump sported a bandage on his right hand, prompting more questions about the nature of his recovery from coronavirus and whether he is still on medication.
He told Fox News on Friday he was “medication-free” and feeling “really, really strong”.
“I want you to know our nation is going to defeat this terrible China virus,” Mr Trump told the cheering crowd of hundreds below, most wearing masks but with very little social distancing at the outdoor event.
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“It’s going to disappear, it is disappearing,” Mr Trump said of the virus, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and severely dented his chances of winning a second term on November 3.
It’s not the first time Mr Trump has made these claims, telling Fox Business back in July the virus would disappear “like a miracle” and there would be a vaccine “very soon”.
“Keep that enthusiasm going, get out and vote. We’ve got to vote. We’ve got to vote these people into oblivion,” Mr Trump said.
The President added he was “feeling great”, before vowing to go “very very big with our rallies”, and said “we cannot allow our country to become a socialist nation. We cannot let that happen”.
“Get out and vote – and I love you,” Mr Trump told the crowd – a sea of red “MAGA” hats – who chanted back “four more years” throughout his 18-minute, law-and-order themed speech.
“We support you, we honour you, it’s a dangerous profession,” he said of law enforcement, which have been criticised by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“They’ve been doing an incredible job and I just want to thank them on behalf of everyone here today because that’s why we’re safe.”
The President also thanked his fans for supporting him throughout his hospitalisation.
“In that hospital I was watching down over so many people, and I went out to say hello to those people and I took a little heat for it, but I’d do it again, let me tell you,” he said, referencing his controversial hospital joy ride, where he was criticised for potentially endangering the lives of the Secret Service.
Today’s event, which the Trump campaign called a “peaceful protest” and White House Event, was labelled as “clearly a campaign rally” in an analysis by CNN.
The speech was reportedly aimed at black at Latino US citizens, who Mr Trump said are benefiting from his policies.
The hundreds of attendees at the speech were asked to bring masks, or were given masks as they arrived, according to Fox News. They were also asked to fill out a health questionnaire and have their temperature checked. The crowd was also encouraged to follow the CDC’s guidelines including wearing their masks, and keeping a social distance.
The speech was Mr Trump’s first public appearance since he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this week, after he was hospitalised for treatment for coronavirus.
Mr Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on October 1 and was taken to the hospital the following day after experiencing serious symptoms. Since Mr Trump left hospital, he’s taken a number of radio and TV interviews and posted videos to social media.
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Pulled off the campaign trail after testing positive for COVID-19 nine days ago, Mr Trump has been counting the days until he can get back out.
Saturday’s campaign-style event at the White House set the stage for his first rally Monday in the critical swing state of Florida – an event slammed as “reckless” by Joe Biden, in light of concerns the president might still be contagious.
Undeterred, the Trump campaign announced two more rallies next week, in battleground Pennsylvania Tuesday and in Iowa on Wednesday.
Mr Trump’s biggest liability – overwhelming public dissatisfaction over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic – has returned as the headline issue of the campaign thanks to his own infection, with cases again on the rise nationwide.
Trailing his Democratic rival by close to 10 points in national polls, Mr Trump insists the pollsters are wrong, and is seeking to reboot his campaign less than three weeks from Election Day.