WH cites 1st Amendment in defending Trump rallies that flout COVID restrictions

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s crowded rallies that contradict local COVID-19 rules and his own administration’s health guidance — saying supporters are exercising their First Amendment rights.



a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Supporters cheer as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Smith Reynolds Regional Airport in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sept. 8, 2020.


© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Supporters cheer as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Smith Reynolds Regional Airport in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sept. 8, 2020.

She argued there is a double-standard when it comes to allowing crowds at protests — hours before the Trump campaign announced airport hangar rallies in Nevada planned for this weekend have been cancelled.

After touting the president’s coronavirus response in North Carolina, a reporter asked McEnany at an afternoon White House briefing why the president chose to host a rally there with thousands of people, many not wearing masks, on Tuesday night when the state has limited its outdoor gatherings to 50 people and mandated masks in public.

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“People have a First Amendment right if they so choose to show up and express their political opinion in the form of a peaceful protest which is what the president has held and there is a real double standard here,” McEnany said.



a person holding a sign: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 9, 2020.


© Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 9, 2020.

“CNN had on a guest, apparently a doctor, Rob Davidson, who said, ‘Now, true, there are social distancing issues with regard to the protests around the country. However, this is a public health crisis. They are marching against systemic racism.’ So if you’re allowed to march in aggregate in those protests, you are also allowed to show up at a political rally. You have a First Amendment right in this country,” she continued.

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Shortly after the briefing, the Trump campaign announced its airport hangar rallies scheduled in Nevada this weekend had been cancelled, which presumably would have flouted the state’s COVID-19 restrictions limiting public gatherings to 50 people, and said that Trump would instead still hold other events in the state.

The Trump campaign said 15,000 supporters showed up at its airport-hanger rally on Tuesday night, and most attendees were packed together and not wearing masks, despite the state’s restrictions that outdoor gathering shouldn’t exceed 50 persons.

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The White House coronavirus task force recently identified North Carolina as having the 18th highest rate of cases in the U.S. and recommended enforced social distancing and mask mandates — but McEnany vehemently defended the gathering on Wednesday.

“If people want to show up and express their political views, that’s their choice to do so. We hand out masks, we encourage the individuals to wear those masks. A lot of people did, I was in North Carolina last night and saw it. We give out hand sanitizer. But at the end of the day, if you want to join a

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