It would be the first time that not even journalists can attend a convention, thanks to COVID-19 regulations. The Democrats will only be admitting journalists, whereas the rest will be watching via a livestream.
Away with the journalists. Yesterday, a Republican spokesperson announced that reporters will not be admitted into the party convention, which will commence Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Why? Because of restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 and adopted by local authorities. We can expect to see the first “private” convention in recent history.
The governor of North Carolina, Democrat Roy Cooper, had already intervened at the end of May, telling organizers that there were no health and safety provisions put in place to host a gathering of approximately 20,000 people at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, considering the 2,500 delegates, military, hosts and the large crowds of media. On June 2, Donald Trump angrily responded saying, “we will go elsewhere.”*
However, COVID-19 has ruined all of the plans. On July 23, the president was forced to cancel all scheduled events in Jacksonville, Florida, which was chosen as an alternative location to Charlotte. Now, there are no longer any guarantees, except that the infection rate continues to worry people. In the last 15 days, the rate of infection in North Carolina has remained at the highest level since the start of the pandemic, approximately 9,000 new cases per day. In Florida, there has been a slight decrease. However, high numbers are still being recorded, going from 11,000 to 9,000 positive cases. The point is, no clear improvement is expected within the next few weeks.
Zeke Miller, Associated Press reporter and the newly-elected president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, complained on Twitter: “This is an ill-advised decision … The nomination of a major party presidential candidate is very much the business of the American people.”
However, at this stage, it all seems to be a bit over the top. There is a true emergency. “We are working with the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines,” explained a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, which has had to drastically cut the number of representatives, admitting only 336 of them. The nomination procedure will be a simple formality as Trump has no rivals, and there are currently no speeches planned for Charlotte. Perhaps Trump will only make an acceptance speech on Aug. 27, in a location that is yet to be confirmed. Either way, it’s difficult to imagine that, on this occasion, the pool of journalists always among the president’s entourage will be excluded.
Republicans could follow the Democrats’ model, allowing access to a limited group of reporters at their convention, which is scheduled to take place Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Everything will also be streamed live, including the speech of Trump’s challenger in the Nov. 3 election, Joe Biden.
A small platform may possibly emerge in Charlotte for a few journalists after all, nearly all of whom are affiliated with the big television networks. Yesterday, however, Miller himself said that “a member of our press corps tested positive for COVID-19,” in an email to the members of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
At the organization’s headquarters in Washington, the atmosphere is rather tense. Yesterday, a purple bruise spotted on Trump’s hand generated several different rumors. Is the president sick? Is the mark from an IV? For the time being, the White House has not yet commented, and Trump spent Sunday playing golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia.
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the quoted remark could not be independently sourced.