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Trump, Pence scrap planned outdoor speeches at Tulsa rally

The Hill logo The Hill 2020-06-20 Brett Samuels
a group of people in uniform: Trump, Pence scrap planned outdoor speeches at Tulsa rally © Getty Images Trump, Pence scrap planned outdoor speeches at Tulsa rally

President Trump scrapped a planned address to supporters outside the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday as attendance appeared to fall short of expectations.

The Trump campaign said in a statement the president and Vice President Pence would not give speeches at a separate stage outside the arena as originally planned.

The campaign had touted the dual speeches from each leader as a special feature of the president's first campaign rally in months and a sign of the enthusiasm and turnout they were expecting in Tulsa.

Reporters on the ground shared photos and video of outside the arena just before the vice president was scheduled to take the stage, however, which showed a sparse crowd in an overflow area outside.

Inside the arena, the floor and lower bowl were filling up with more than an hour until the president's speech. Supporters were still filling in, but the arena had yet to reach capacity.

The Trump campaign in a statement blamed the lighter than expected turnout on the media and protesters in the area.

"President Trump is rallying in Tulsa with thousands of energetic supporters, a stark contrast to the sleepy campaign being run by Joe Biden from his basement in Delaware," communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement. "Sadly, protestors interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering the rally.

"Radical protestors, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President's supporters. We are proud of the thousands who stuck it out," he added.

The president often boasts about turnout at his events in exaggerated terms, and the campaign said it had received more than 1 million ticket requests ahead of the Tulsa rally. But Saturday's gathering is taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic, where cases have spiked in Oklahoma in recent days.

Six Trump campaign staffers tested positive for coronavirus, the campaign said Saturday, casting yet another cloud over the rally.

Inside the arena, nearly all of those shown in news footage were not wearing face coverings.

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