During the Summer of 2020, as COVID-19 cases continued to devastate the country and public gatherings were severely limited, then-President Donald Trump decided to throw an indoor rally to help bolster his depressingly-low polling numbers. We all know how the event turned out — low attendance, high infection rates, and the tragic passing of Herman Cain, a devout Trump supporter and former GOP presidential candidate.
But, according to a new book, what went on behind the scenes of Trump’s vanity-fueled super-spreader event was even worse than what the media initially reported. Basically, this whole thing was a total sh*tshow.
In his new book, Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, Jonathan Karl recount the weeks leading up to the event. With Trump polling abysmally low numbers thanks to his mishandling of the recent Coronavirus outbreak, his staff advised he’d need to do something to win back voters. Trump, who had been pining for more rallies full of adoring MAGA fans shouting his name, decided a huge gathering during the middle of a pandemic was the shot of adrenaline his campaign needed. Campaign manager Brad Parscale tried to tempt him with a boat rally in Florida and some drive-through options to keep people safe but the former president wanted large crowds, indoors which is why Oklahoma — a state with a Republican governor and lax COVID protocols — was eventually chosen to host the rally. Days before the event, staffers gathered to set things up, hosting their own late-night reunion at their hotel. That’s where the trouble really started.
“Nobody bothered to keep their distance or wear masks,” Karl writes, detailing a booze-filled after-party held in a Trump staffer’s hotel room. “As it turned out, the virus wasn’t just spreading across the country—it was also spreading among the Trump campaign staff.”
Eight members of Trump’s staff would soon be infected with Covid, along with two Secret Service members.
“The headlines were embarrassing,” Karl continues. “Trump was furious that news about infected campaign staffers was getting in the way of news about his triumphant return to the campaign trail.”
Trump officials instructed staffers to stop testing and directed infected staffers to “rent a car” and drive the 1300 miles back to Washington, D.C. despite the CDC issuing a mandatory quarantine of 10 days for those testing positive. They dubbed the vehicle the “Covid-mobile. “One staffer was so sick, he was eventually admitted to a hospital in Tulsa after the rally took place. Still, the thing that almost stopped Trump from attending wasn’t the public health crisis but the embarrassingly low attendance numbers which he had, at one point predicted would be in the 1 million range.
“As Air Force One prepared to land in Tulsa, Trump called Parscale to check in on the thing he cared about the most: the size of the crowd,” Karl writes. “‘Is it going to be full?’ Trump asked. ‘No, sir. It looks like Beirut in the eighties,’ Parscale responded. Trump hung up on him.”
Days after the rally, Cain, who had flown out to the event and attended maskless, was hospitalized with Covid-19. A month later, he died from complications from the disease. Karl describes the reaction amongst staffers to his death as devastating:
“‘We killed Herman Cain,’ one senior staffer told ABC News reporter Will Steakin not long after Cain’s death.”
So yeah, as bad as it looked on TV, apparently Trump’s death rally was even worse in real life.
(Via Vanity Fair)