Donald Trump’s first public rally since contracting COVID-19, held on the White House south lawn, raised red flags for a number of reasons. Despite the fact that the President is still infected with coronavirus and many in his inner circle are still sick from his last super-spreader event, the event didn’t require social distancing, testing or masks for attendees. Especially alarming is the fact that the event was predominantly attended by Black and Latinx folks.
According to reports, they were paid to be there.
According to emails obtained by ABC News, numerous Black people had their travel and lodging comped by conservative speaker Candace Owens’ group BLEXIT. The supporters were scheduled to attend a separate BLEXIT event and were later reportedly invited to attend a “HUGE outdoor rally” with Trump by the group and asked to fill out a form that notified them that BLEXIT will cover their travel costs.
BLEXIT is a campaign created by Owens in 2018 that urges African Americans to leave the Democratic Party.
In one of Owens’ emails obtained by ABC News, attendees were informed that “EVERYONE MUST BRING A MASK TO BE ALLOWED ENTRY ONTO THE WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS.” and that “absolutely no exceptions” will be made. However, that requirement appeared to be loosened by the White House, that only recommended masks be worn and didn’t demand them.
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Attendees for Saturday’s event were also required to wear a BLEXIT t-shirt, according to the obtained emails. “EVERYONE MUST WEAR A BLEXIT T-SHIRT (Which will be given to you ahead of the event) — no exceptions,” it reads, according to ABC News.
Trump addressed the Black and Latino people who attended the event. “I’m honored to welcome — we call this a ‘peaceful protest’ — to the White House in support of the incredible men and women of law enforcement and all of the people that work so well with us,” he said. “And I have to tell you, our Black community, our Hispanic community, thank you very much. Thank you.”
He also addressed Owens and her organization.
“I want to thank the BLEXIT Foundation for organizing this event,” he said. “Thank you very much. Thank you. And especially your two founders, two friends of mine, great people: Candace Owens and former Tucson police officer Brandon Tatum. Thank you both. Great job. What a great job. Two really brilliant, smart, young people.”
Asked for details about the event and what protocols were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 there, Owens told ABC News, “We are not interested in participating in your obvious media angle here to slander/attack the President regarding Covid-19.” She added that it’s “about supporting law enforcement in minority communities.”
According to an ABC/Washington Post poll, Joe Biden leads Trump 88 percent to 9 percent for the Black vote.