The president held a surprise press conference at one of his golf clubs late Friday evening, and very few of the attendees wore masks — until Twitter shamed them about it.
During Friday’s conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump spoke about a strange selection of topics, but did address the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he repeatedly referred to as the “ChinaVirus.”
I will be doing a news conference on the ChinaVirus, the just announced very good economic numbers, and the improving economy, at 7pm from Bedminster, New Jersey. Also, the subject of the Beirut, Lebanon catastrophe will be discussed.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2020
At the start of his speech, Trump encouraged Americans to continue social distancing, wash their hands, and wear masks. But just moments before he came out, a staffer was seen handing out masks out to the crowded audience made up of members the golf club, Associate Press correspondent Jonathan Lemire tweeted.
Despite clinical evidence that covering faces and maintaining at least six feet of distance drastically limits the spread of the coronavirus, few attendees appeared to come to the press conference with their own masks, much less be concerned with maintaining social distance.
Several of the reporters who were covering the event tweeted photos of the packed unmasked crowd awaiting the president, and it wasn’t until those tweets picked up steam that President Trump’s staff decided to hand out masks and ask the crowd to spread out.
Awaiting @POTUS presser in Bedminster. Many members of his club are here not social distancing and not wearing masks.
A club official just told the crowd to “spread out a little bit” because “the tweets are going out” about their noncompliance with NJ regulations pic.twitter.com/bzyLVwqS0u
— Toluse Olorunnipa (@ToluseO) August 7, 2020
after the press corps’ tweets, staffers asked audience members to distance more and handed out masks
— Justin Sink (@justinsink) August 7, 2020
In addition to being bad optics for the president who has struggled to maintain a consistent message on how best to contain the deadly virus, the crowded gathering may also not adhere to New Jersey’s social distancing regulations.
Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Murphy decreased the maximum number of people allowed at indoor gatherings from 100 to just 25, regardless of the room’s capacity. The change is applicable to weddings, funerals, memorial services, religious services, or political activities. Even exceptions, however, are limited to 25 percent of the room’s capacity with a maximum of 100 people. People are also required to wear a mask in indoor commercial spaces that are closed to the public.
When the president opened the conference to questions, a reporter noted that many country club patrons were not initially wearing masks. Trump dismissed it, claiming that the gathering was a “peaceful protest.”
Wow. A reporter points out many club members in the room aren’t wearing mask, violating guidelines.
The crowd boos the reporter.
“Because it’s a political activity they have exceptions” and it’s “also a peaceful protest,” Trump said.
The crowd, full of wealthy members, cheers.
— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) August 8, 2020
Trump says members of his NJ club who are gathered maskless are complying with law bc it’s a “political activity” and “peaceful protest.” It’s unclear what they are protesting. Trump in recent days has said that wearing a mask is patriotic, but seems to be endorsing no masks now
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 8, 2020
Though they did issue loud “boos” at several points during the press conference, it was not at all clear what the president thought the group was protesting.