CNN's Jim Acosta repeatedly questioned White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany at Wednesday's White House press briefing if President Trump or the White House will take responsibility if people catch the coronavirus at his upcoming rally in Tulsa. Acosta, as a witness to rallies, estimated "probably half" of rally-attendees have preexisting conditions that leave them subject to the virus.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDNET: Kayleigh, in the last day, 96 people in Tulsa have contracted the coronavirus. I’m wondering about this rally coming up on Saturday. Will the President or the White House take responsibility if people get sick and catch the coronavirus at this rally on Saturday?
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY KAYLEIGH MCENANY: So the campaign has taken certain measures to make sure this is a safe rally: temperature checks, hand sanitizers, and masks. So we are taking precautions.
ACOSTA: But you’re not requiring people to wear masks.
MS. MCENANY: They will be given a mask. It’s up to them whether to make that decision. CDC guidelines are recommended but not required.
ACOSTA: And the CDC guidelines suggest that people practice social distancing. You’re not going to be able to practice social distancing in a rally with thousands of people. So aren’t you, in essence, bringing people to a rally where they won’t be abiding by those guidelines, adhering to those guidelines?
MS. MCENANY: It’s the personal choice of individuals as to what to do. But if we want to talk about internal coherence, I believe that the media needs to work on internal coherence.
This wonderful New York Post story — I don’t think Steven Nelson is here, but good job to the New York Post — highlights the hypocrisy of the media where this is okay: protesting; this is not okay: Trump rallies.
It’s really remarkable, and I think the American people have taken notice when, for instance, NBC tweets at 4:05 p.m. on June 14th: “Rally for Black trans lives draws [packed] crowds,” in Brooklyn Museum Plaza, seeming to be lauding the protests. And then, less than an hour and a half later, they say, “President Trump plans to rally…but health experts are questioning that decision.” CBS had a similar logically inconsistent tweet.
ACOSTA: Kayleigh, these are protesters protesting against injustice, against racism and police brutality. This is a rally — a political rally. They’re — they’re not going to be demonstrating for any kind of cause other than supporting the President. And I go back to my original question: Will the White House, will the President take responsibility if there are people who catch the coronavirus and get sick? As you know, you’ve been to these rallies.
MS. MCENANY: So have you, by the way.
ACOSTA: Many of the people who go to the rallies — I’ve been to them too —
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
ACOSTA: — are elderly. Probably half, preexisting conditions that put them at risk for serious complications if they catch this virus.
MS. MCENANY: So, first, let me note, you’ve been to rallies — these Trump rallies. We do rally in support of something. We rally in support of the President who got us the lowest number of black unemployment in the history of our country and paychecks going up. We rally that HBCU funding for historically black colleges and universities is permanent because of President Trump.
ACOSTA: Right. But you’re not answering my question.
MS. MCENANY: We rally — but to say —
ACOSTA: Will the President, will the White House take responsibility if people get sick?
MS. MCENANY: No, because you — Jim, you suggested —
ACOSTA: Can you answer that question?
MS. MCENANY: You suggested that we don’t rally on behalf of anything. So let me note one more thing: We rally on behalf of —
ACOSTA: I said you rally on behalf of the President. That’s why you’re going.
MS. MCENANY: We rally on behalf of criminal justice reform and the FIRST STEP Act, which President Obama and Vice President Biden talked about, but we did.
And I would note this: If we want to talk about the efficacy of what we’re doing, 1,300 health experts signed a letter about the protest, saying, “We do not condemn these gatherings. We support them as vital.” So you have the health experts on one side saying this, and then, all of a sudden, a Trump rally is different.
ACOSTA: Okay. You’re dancing around — you’re dancing around the question. You’re holding up a newspaper headline. That’s very nice.
MS. MCENANY: And I’ve taken five of your questions. Work on your internal cohesion, and get back to me, Jim.
ACOSTA: Ms. McEnany, you have not answered the question. Will the President, will the White House —
MS. MCENANY: I answered five of your questions. And last —
ACOSTA: But my first question has not been answered. Will the President, will the White House take responsibility —
MS. MCENANY: I said to you we are taking precautions.
ACOSTA: — if people get sick?
MS. MCENANY: I said to you we are taking precautions: masks, hand sanitizer.
ACOSTA: So you’re not going to take responsibility?