The Trump campaign announced yesterday that New York representative Elise Stefanik will travel to Tulsa for a controversial Trump campaign rally this weekend. The Tulsa rally, the first Trump campaign rally since early March, has been widely criticized for its potential to spread COVID-19 to 19,000 attendees and to greater Tulsa.
Two-term conservative Republican representative Stefanik rose to national prominence during impeachment hearings last fall as a vocal defender of the president on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Stefanik’s support for President Trump has been avid. She was a week-end guest of the president at Camp David on May 16th and 17th, invited with Reps. Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and other prominent Trump supporters.
Tulsa’s Republican mayor G.T. Bynum stated June 17th that he would not be attending the rally, saying ” I would have loved for some other city to have tried this first.” Oklahoma Department of Health commissioner Lance Frye said that rally attendees “will face increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.” Commissioner Frye urged senior citizens to “stay home.”
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports 259 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, nearly four times the number it reported June 1st.
Trump and his campaign are deflecting responsibility for COVID-19 spread to rally attendees, like Stefanik. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on June 17th “When you come to the rally, as with any event, you assume a personal risk. That is just what you do.” Attendance at the Tulsa rally requires acceptance of a Trump campaign waiver that absolves the campaign of legal responsibility for COVID-19 spread. “[Guests] voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19”
Prominent White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci stated yesterday that he would not choose to attend the Tulsa rally. “Personally, I would not. Of course not.”
Stefanik’s record on health legislation has undermined her stated concern for healthcare. She voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, in 2017. In 2019 she voted against HR 3 which would allow the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Earlier this year, Stefanik voted against HR 2339 which would ban flavored tobacco “vaping” products. Stefanik has voted with her party on legislation that would weaken the Affordable Care Act.
The Tulsa rally has been rife with controversy. The city is the location of the Greenwood Massacre in which 100-300 black citizens were killed during a 1921 race riot. The original June 19th rally date coincides with “Juneteenth,” the date on which the emancipation of US slaves is traditionally celebrated. The rally was moved to June 20th following criticism that the original date and location were chosen as a racist “dogwhistle” by the Trump campaign.