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Racism, Lies, and Empty Seats: The Embarrassment That Was Trump’s Rally

Oddly, the loudest cheers of the night came when Trump proved he could drink water from a glass

A supporter sits alone in the top sections of seating for President Donald J. Trump’s "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, OK.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Trump’s first rally since the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. provided an unsurprising disaster of a speech, but the sparse crowd in attendance after the campaign touted ticket requests of over a million was a stunning surprise that sent Trump allies scurrying for excuses.

Trump’s embarrassing speech on Saturday night in Tulsa hit on all of the familiar themes. Racism, when referring to COVID-19 as “Kung Flu.” A slew of lies that included a false claim that violent protesters attempted to disrupt the rally outside of the BOK Center. “We had a bunch of maniacs come and sort of attack our city,” Trump said.

Trump’s omissions were also not a surprise but stunning nonetheless. The president made no mention of George Floyd, the Black Wall Street massacre that took place in Tulsa in 1921, or Juneteenth, the anniversary that marks the end of slavery, which Trump claimed to have made “very famous” this week.

But most important to this pathologically egocentric president must have been the emptiness he felt inside when he stared at all on the empty seats in the arena while he stood at the podium, airing his many grievances.

According to the New York Times, Trump was “furious” about the lack of an overflow crowd that forced the dismantling of an outdoor stage. And Forbes is reporting that only 6,200 of the 19,200 seats in the arena were filled, a far cry from Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale’s boasts of over one million ticket requests to hear the president speak.

Trump’s most egregious moment came when he claimed that he told health officials to “slow down testing” for COVID-19 because more testing means more cases, and that makes him look bad.

Of course, the White House later tried to clean up Trump’s mess by saying the president was joking. But he was not. It’s a talking point he has used repeatedly in recent weeks. And Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) said on Twitter that FEMA recently refused to help set up a testing site in South Jersey because the White House wouldn’t allow it. “When I requested FEMA to stand up a Coronavirus test site in South Jersey they told me the White House said no. Now we know why,” he tweeted.

Finally, Trump seemed to have prepped most for his attempt to quell the talk about his possible failing health when he went into an expansive explanation of the viral moments where he appeared to struggle walking down a ramp and drinking water during a commencement address at the West Point military academy last weekend.

Oddly, the loudest cheers of the night came when Trump proved he could drink water from a glass.