U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed mainstream media and “radical protesters” for scaring away attendees during his first election rally in more than three months.
Trump wanted to face a massive crowd in the city of Tulsa in the U.S. state of Oklahoma, where he received 65 percent of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.
But fewer than expected turned up for the speech. That prompted the last-minute cancellation of separate remarks that Trump was meant to give to an outside "overflow" stage to those who could not get in.
His campaign anticipated a crowd too large for Tulsa’s BOK Center, a stadium with a capacity of 19,200, claiming to have received over a million ticket requests.
Social media has been buzzing over an alleged plot by TikTok network users to convince hordes of voters to request tickets to the Tulsa rally — and then not show up.
With just over half the blue seats filled, it wasn’t the comeback Trump had hoped for. However, he told the thousands of people who did come that the battle is far from over.
Trump blamed the media and the “very bad people outside” for his lack of a crowd. “I have been watching the fake news for weeks now. And everything is negative,” Trump explained in his 1 hour and 41-minute speech.
And he lashed out at anti-Trump protesters outside. “We had some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things. But I really do appreciate it,” he told those who showed up. “You saw these thugs that came along.”
During his speech, Trump cited "radicals" that targeted statues of Thomas Jefferson and Christopher Columbus in recent days.
He also appealed for a law that could punish the burning of an American flag with a one year jail sentence. While touting his chances in November, Trump warned that his rival the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, would always "cave" to “radical" parts of his party.
Saturday’s rally was held despite warnings by authorities it could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.
But Trump’s campaign also suffered as six members of the advance team- tested positive for COVID-19.
Oklahoma has reportedly seen an increase in coronavirus cases as the state moved through the re-opening process.
As of Monday, the new virus killed more than 116,000 people in the United States, and 2.1 million have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Critics have questioned the statistics citing evidence that U.S. hospitals receive more money for coronavirus patients.
"If we stop testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any," Trump asserted.