A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
It has come to this: The major TV networks decided to stay outside while President Trump held a rally inside a manufacturing plant in Nevada on Sunday, marking his first fully-indoor rally since Tulsa in June. News outlets exhibited more responsibility than the president.
I understand that Trump’s “what pandemic?” attitude is shared by many of his supporters — and it feels good, viscerally, to pretend to “get back to normal” — but Trump’s disregard for social distancing guidelines and other safety measures is a shocking contradiction of his own government’s recommendations and a violation of Nevada’s restrictions on gatherings of 50 people or more.
On Sunday I spoke with five people on the ground in Nevada and another five who are involved in news coverage decision-making back at HQ. The takeaway: Trump’s defiance of Covid safety guidelines is forcing news outlets to make tough decisions about how to make staffers safe. Sources told me that all the major networks, from CNN to ABC to Fox News, decided not to send their crews and correspondents into the Trump event due to Covid-19 concerns. Correspondents like CNN’s Jeremy Diamond reported from an open-air location, which experts say is much safer than a confined space where lots of people are sharing the air.
Some local TV crews still went inside. And members of the White House press pool still attended the event, so that all the other outlets were provided with video, photos and raw material. There are usually 13 people in the so-called “pool,” representing wires, print, radio, TV, and photography.
“There is definitely some anxiety in the pool,” one of the sources told me ahead of time, since the event was fully indoors, with seats close together and no serious attempts at Covid containment. There are “temp checks but that is meaningless,” the source said. “Masks recommended but not required.”
Thousands of mostly-unmasked Trump fans were in attendance. Some of the sources at the event told me that some Trump aides noticeably donned masks for the first time — an admission of sorts that this event was riskier than the president’s other recent events.
>> Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement that Trump was taking “reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada.”
Meanwhile, Fox mocks Biden…
During the 9pm hour on Fox News Sunday night, host Steve Hilton brought up the indoor event, without noting all of the angst about Trump defying Covid safety precautions. Guest Lisa Marie Boothe praised Trump: “He’s also out there with vigor and energy, ready to tackle another four years, and you’ve got another guy who can’t even leave the basement.” She sounded just like Trump, who tweeted on Saturday, “While I travel the Country, Joe sleeps in his basement.” The only problem? Biden traveled to multiple states last week. And on Sunday he went to church. The “basement” line is becoming more and more of a lie…