By Jeri Davis and Don Dike-Anukam | Photos by Ty O’Neil and Eric Marks
Audio and Video by Don Dike-Anukam
President Donald Trump called attendees at his Saturday rally in Minden “true, loyal American patriots,” noting that the thousands who’d gathered to hear him speak amounted to “a lot of people for Minden.” Masks were few among the crowd of an estimated 5,000 people. The Trump campaign and Douglas County officials did not respond to requests for a count of attendees.
The President’s Minden rally was the first on a four-stop “Great American Comeback Tour” from Nevada to Arizona this weekend.
Trump was originally set to speak at a hangar at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The gathering would have violated Governor Steve Sisolak’s directives banning large gatherings, as well as health guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier in the week, the owner of the hangar in Reno–at the urging of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, which issued a letter to all tenants–scrubbed the event, leaving the President’s northern Nevada visit in limbo until Friday, when the Minden location was announced.
For hours leading up to and following the event, US 395 in and around Minden was clogged with traffic. Several thousand vehicles were parked along the highway and tightly packed into a nearby field. Rally attendees loaded onto buses to finish the last few miles of their journey to the Minden airport, where Trump spoke on the tarmac. The crowd sang along to music and waved pro-Trump signs in front of the cameras of reporters assembled in a central media pen—stopping to cheer when snipers ascended to lookout spots surrounding the venue.
At one point, a Black man with a “Black Voices for Trump” sign—which read on one side to text “woke” to a Trump campaign number—walked around the media pen as other attendees cheered him on.
The President was not far into his speech when he insinuated that he might attempt to stay in office even after 2024 should he win a second term.
“Fifty-two days from now, we’re going to win Nevada,” he said. “And we’re going to win four more years in the White House, and then, after that, we’ll negotiate—because, based on the way we were treated, we’re probably entitled to another four after that. And it should never happen to another president. It’s just a dishonest group of people. But here we are. We’re going to be here for another four years.”
Trump told the crowd that Governor Steve Sisolak had “tried very hard” to stop the rally—saying it was being called a protest, because those are considered OK.
“They can have riots, and they can have all sorts of things, and that’s OK,” Trump said.
Nevada Independent reporter Megan Messerly commented on Trump’s allegations on Twitter, writing, “Trump is really going on a rant here about Sisolak: ‘He’s in control of millions of votes. Here’s a guy calling venues telling them not to have the rally. Calling different venues, don’t have the rally.’ (Sisolak’s office says it had no communication w/ organizers or hosts.)”
Sisolak press representative Meghin Delaney responded to Messerly, writing, “We didn’t. Emergency directives were put in place to protect the public health of all Nevadans. Whether people or businesses agree with the mitigation measures, those that respect that law and care about our State are following them.”
Later in his nearly two-hour speech, he said rioters have been permitted to “burn the hell out of Reno” while churchgoers have been denied the right to congregate.
After saying his presidential opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, cannot fill up a room for the media and uses COVID-19 social distancing requirements as an excuse for it, Trump turned his attention to the media in attendance at the event—saying reporters are biased in favor of Biden.
“Oh, boy—the fake news—look at all of those people back there, those fake news people,” Trump said as the crowd turned to boo. “Boy, they cover. Did you see the other day? Now, they’re finding out that to do an interview—they ask him a question. That means they’re giving him the questions. They never gave me questions before. So, to do an interview, he demands on getting the questions, and his people write out the answers.
“So, they ask him a question, and he says, ‘Bring that up. Bring it closer. I can’t see it, damn it.”
Trump said following the debate in three weeks, the media will compare Biden to Winston Churchill in debate skills.
“You know that. You know that,” he said. “They’re going to say, ‘What a great performance. He was great today. He was great.’ No, he’s not great. But your governor tried to stop us.”
Trump then referenced Kelly O’Donnell, who was on site reporting, as “a fading reporter for NBC,” noting that she said that there was a crowd present, but that he felt she’d played down its size.
Trump then said there were 25,000 people in attendance, more than five times the number that has been estimated by other sources, though This Is Reno is awaiting confirmation on that estimate from authorities. The 25,000 number was a claim he repeated multiple times. He also said he couldn’t understand why the press had been given a central location from which to film and take photos.
“No, this is the fake news. It’s not a question of how many–they are just a bunch of dishonest people,” Trump said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. You know, being in real estate and being in New York and being in, all over, I’ve seen a lot of dishonest people. I think the media, the fake news, is the most dishonest group of people I’ve ever seen anywhere in my entire life–and that includes, by the way, leaders of foreign countries that are not our friends, OK?”
Without citing evidence, Trump accused Sisolak of personally calling venues and telling them not to host the rally before suggesting Sisolak would use mail-in ballots to rig the vote in Nevada. He said the same will happen across the country at the hands of Democrats.
“They send 80 million ballots out, where are they going?” Trump questioned. “These are all controlled by Democrat governors, like your politically motivated governor.
“So, just to finish on that…he’s a guy that tried to silence us by not having this, and it turned out our crowd turned out to be a lot bigger than NBC, which is owned by ‘Concast,’” Trump said, suggesting that journalists used to be subject to more “licensing requirements” and had to be “reasonably accurate.” Freedom of the press in the U.S. is legally protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. While standard best practices for media have evolved over time with changes to technology, laws governing journalistic pursuits have not.
“Today they can do whatever the hell they want,” Trump said of the media. “It’s fake news, and it’s a disgrace…They’re the biggest problem this country has–is the fake news media–worse than the Democrats.”
Trump said he’s been busy “securing our borders, rebuilding our military and standing up to China like nobody has ever stood up to China before.”
He also addressed claims concerning allegations that he’s called soldiers “suckers and losers,” saying that an ad from Biden repeating the claims have put him in a position where he can now be “vicious” in his response.
If Biden wins the election, Trump said, the “violent left-wing mob” wins–a theme he returned to throughout his speech, alongside additional jabs taken at media covering the event.
“Could I ask the fake news to take your cameras and show all the way back there for hundreds of yards…Take your cameras, as far as the eye can see,” he said. “No, tell NBC news it’s not a thousand people here.”
Trump also returned to other frequent talking points, including Hillary Clinton and the Mueller investigation. He again repeated his claim that former President Barack Obama spied on his 2016 campaign and was caught.
As the Statesman reported in a fact-checking article, “Trump has often said that Obama had a hand in the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The FBI operation, called Crossfire Hurricane, targeted four men within the Trump campaign orbit, including campaign manager Paul Manafort and national security adviser Michael Flynn.”
Noting that he’s been nominated for his second, Trump said Obama was unaware of why he’d received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.
“Yesterday, we were nominated a second time for another Nobel Prize. Now, that’s a big thing. To me it’s a big thing, even though, obviously, it’s a very political thing–the Nobel Peace Prize…I’m just reporting this, I got zero time on the nightly news, on the networks. Zero. Zero. We got zero time. Think of it.”
Trump returned to his claim that the media would downplay the size of the Minden crowd repeatedly–while interspersing this with complaints about statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website and its predictions and polls, as well as the “China virus,” the phrase by which he refers to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Trump said he knew that the “tens of thousands of people” he saw lining the roadways as he traveled with his motorcade from Reno to Minden represented a greater number of supporters than former President Barack Obama had in Nevada. He also took time to attack other political opponents, including former Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Trump also spoke about building and sending ventilators to other countries. News reports have questioned the usefulness of these ventilators for the countries to which they’re being delivered.
Nevada is one of several states within which Trump campaign staff has said they’re hoping to ramp up support among Latino voters for the incumbent president. In Nevada, Latinos account for nearly one-fifth of eligible voters.
Claiming that he leads Biden in polls concerning the Latino vote—though only one poll taken last week in Florida corroborates this—Trump said he believes Latinos will vote in support of him this November because they “like tough people. They like people who are going to produce jobs, and, by the way, Hispanics know the border better than anyone.”
On Monday, Trump will travel much closer to the U.S. border when he visits Arizona as a part of his tour.
Among the more noteworthy news of the evening was Trump openly challenging Biden to produce a list of Supreme Court nominees, as he did in 2016 and again earlier this week at the White House.
Trump later returned his comments to the May 30 riots in Reno, saying, “Here in Nevada, rioters burned the City Hall in Reno?…Does anybody know that? That’s not a pleasant sight. How did you allow that to happen? I would have thought you people would have gotten out there…‘You’re not gonna burn our city hall!’”
He also referenced Shay Mikalonis, a 29-year-old Las Vegas police officer who was shot in the head during protests in that city in June.
“A vicious criminal–left, a lefty person; he was a lefty person, a left; he was a real left all right,” Trump said of Edgar Samaniego, who allegedly shot Mikalonis.
“A young officer, a brilliant young guy, and he’s totally paralyzed,” Trump said of Mikalonis.
Returning to the topic of Biden, Trump said, “The fact is, I did more in 47 months as president than Joe Biden did in 47 years. It’s true. That’s true.”
He referenced his administration’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was a terrorist and leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant up until his killing in 2019 as evidence.
“Joe Biden has been on the wrong side of history for 47 years,” Trump said.
He concluded his remarks with his trademark closing lines, “We are one movement, one people, one family and one glorious nation under God. Together with the incredible people in Nevada, we are going to make America wealthy again. We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again, and we will make America great again!”