President Donald Trump boasted to supporters on Tuesday about his campaign intentionally misrepresenting itself in order to skirt coronavirus restrictions.
“Joe Biden and his party spent the entire summer cheering on the riots, rampaging for Democrat-run cities, labeling them as peaceful protesters. We call you peaceful protesters, you know why? Because they have rules in these Democrat-run states that if you’re campaigning, you cannot have more than five people. They did that for me,” the president told supporters during a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The Commander in Chief has railed against lockdown restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 6 million Americans and killed nearly 190,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“If you’re going to church—you can’t go to church any more! You can't go to church, you’ve got to stay in your house, you can’t do anything, but if you’re willing to riot, running down main street, stand on each others’ faces, do whatever the hell you want to do, you’re allowed to do that because you're considered a peaceful protester, so we decided to call all our rallies peaceful protests,” he said Tuesday night.
To which municipal agency the campaign would have issued such descriptions of itself is unclear.
In keeping with his tradition of attacking the health guidelines issued by his own administration, Trump also claimed states that opted not to shut down to stop the virus’ spread fared better.
“You are in a shutdown. I've been to many states that aren't in shutdowns, and they are doing better. They’re doing better,” he said.
States’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic have varied widely, as have the results of their responses. Texas and Florida, which have largely rescinded their COVID-19 shutdown orders, are still grappling with high case counts. California, which instituted a strict and early lockdown, is home to the highest number of cases in the nation. Iowa, which did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order, is now one of the country’s COVID-19 hot spots. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have, however, found that lockdowns prevented millions of infections.
Trump’s campaign travel has resulted in dozens of new coronavirus infections among his own staff and his Secret Service guards.
Trump also stoked conspiracy theories about the Democratic governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, and his administration. The president, a Republican, encouraged supporters to watch out for the “thieving, stealing, and robbing they do,” urging his supporters to be “poll watchers.”
“You have to be careful with those ballots. Watch those ballots. I don’t like it. You have a Democrat governor. You have all these Democrats. I don’t like it,” he said.
Trump has spent months attempting to undermine the credibility of the upcoming election results, whether attacking the Postal Service and voting by mail or voting conducted in states with Democratic governors. He has repeatedly said outside forces “rigged” the 2016 election without evidence, despite winning.