Coronavirus Restrictions

Media to be banned from Republican convention

In a modern first, the press will not be present when the GOP votes to renominate Donald Trump for president

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US PRESS GROUP

The media will reportedly not be allowed to witness Donald trump’s formal renomination as the Republican party’s choice for president at its national convention later this month.

Citing coronavirus-related health concerns, a convention spokesperson told the Associated Press that media members would be turned away in order to assure compliance with state and local guidelines “regarding the number of people who can attend events”.

The announcement was highly unusual and would represent a historic departure from convention practices in modern times. A small Arkansas paper, the Democrat Gazette, first reported the news. The Republican national committee, which organizes the convention, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Held once every four years, the parties’ national conventions represent occasions for party officials and operatives to come together to strategize, renew contacts, share excitement and ultimately formally nominate the party’s candidate for president.

The official nomination is typically covered with a wall-to-wall media blitz including cheering crowds decked out in party swag and a live broadcast of the nominee’s acceptance speech. The exposure typically results in a bounce of a few points for the nominee in approval polls.

But this year the Republican party appears intent on repeating its nomination of Trump, whose dismal performance in handling the coronavirus pandemic has dragged his popularity to historic lows, with no cameras present, in subversion of the president’s own instinct for spectacle and obsession with TV ratings.

“Given the health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina, we are planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed [to] press Friday, August 21–Monday, August 24,” a convention spokeswoman told the AP.

“We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”

It was not clear how the convention could move forward in compliance with state guidelines, which have been a sticking point between Republicans and the state’s Democratic governor for months. The state of North Carolina currently has set an official limit of 10 people for indoor gatherings and 25 people outdoors.

The Republican national party has announced that 336 officials would attend the convention.

Confronted with earlier expressions of concern by the state about the crowds, the Republican party abruptly announced the relocation of key convention activities to Florida, which has a strongly pro-Trump Republican governor.

But Trump had to call off the public components of the convention in Florida last month, citing spiking cases of the virus across the country.

The convention was once expected to bring 15,000 journalists to Charlotte, but the spread of coronavirus this spring upended those plans.

The seven-day average for confirmed new Covid-19 cases in North Carolina climbed steadily before breaking the 2,000 barrier last month. The state has recorded almost 2,000 deaths total from coronavirus. Face masks are required in public in the state per executive order.

Privately, some GOP delegations have raised logistical issues with traveling to Charlotte, citing the increasing number of jurisdictions imposing mandatory quarantine orders on travellers returning from states experiencing surges in the virus.

The subset of delegates in Charlotte will be casting proxy votes on behalf of the more than 2,500 official delegates to the convention. Alternate delegates and guests have already been prohibited.

The Democrats have planned a mostly virtual convention to nominate Joe Biden Jr to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 17-20 August.

North Carolina governor Roy Cooper said last week that the state would welcome the president.

“He’s welcome to come, but nothing has changed about our resolved to keep health and safety first,” Cooper said. “Obviously we would have concerns about people coming in and about a large crowd, but we’ll continue to keep health and safety number one in this process.”

Trump indicated in an interview at the White House last month that he would travel to Charlotte to accept the nomination.

“We’ll be doing a speech on Thursday – the main speech, the primary speech,” Trump told reporters. “Charlotte, they will be doing the nominating on Monday. That’s a different period, a different thing happening, but they’ll be doing nominations on Monday. I speak on Thursday.”

Trump last month announced cancellation of three days of events set for Florida. “I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It’s just not right,” Trump said at the White House. “To have a big convention, it’s not the right time.”

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