You’re seeing a lot less of President Trump’s campaign rallies on television this presidential cycle. Particularly when they’re held indoors, during a global pandemic, like his campaign stop in Henderson, Nev., on Sunday night.
The one holdout has typically been Fox News, though the president’s favorite channel has lately been prone to cut in and out through parts of the speech that meander or conflict with its high-rated prime-time pundits.
But when the president spoke at the Xtreme Manufacturing facility on Sunday, even Fox didn’t broadcast it. None of the major networks did. Not even C-SPAN, which historically broadcasts his rallies as something of a public service for viewers.
For health reasons, correspondents and camera crews for the leading broadcast and cable news networks mostly reported from outside the facility. The indoor rally was held in violation of the state’s covid-19 regulations, drawing the ire of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who called it “shameful, dangerous and irresponsible.”
It was the campaign’s first indoor rally since it held a controversial and poorly attended event in Tulsa in June. A top local health official in the Oklahoma city later said the rally and other large gatherings, including protests, “more than likely” contributed to Tulsa County’s surge in coronavirus cases.
Representatives for NBC News and CBS News, which both kept their correspondents outside, told The Washington Post on Monday that their networks follow public health best practices when making such decisions.
“We will continue to follow and monitor prevailing public health guidelines regarding large indoor gatherings as we have since the start of the pandemic,” an NBC News spokesperson said.
Jeremy Diamond, a White House correspondent for CNN who broadcast from outside the venue, said on-air that the decision was made by journalists because of the increased risk of coronavirus transmission indoors, particularly when social distancing is not practiced.
“You don’t want to be exposed, potentially, to a spread of coronavirus,” anchor Wolf Blitzer said during a segment Sunday. “That’s right, Wolf,” Diamond replied. “And, If you listen to every public health expert, that is what they would advise you to do — is to not an attend an event where you have thousands of people packed together inside in an indoor space where people are not wearing masks, where people are not social distancing.”
Still, even while most reporters did not venture inside, a live video feed was provided to the networks, as part of standard protocol, to use if they chose. But they did not Sunday night.
Networks are generally reluctant to discuss their programming decisions, including their choices about when to broadcast the president’s rallies. Fox, which has broadcast Trump rallies far more than most other networks — and boasted that its live coverage of the Tulsa rally drew a substantial 7.7 million viewers — did not provide a public comment about its decision not to broadcast the Henderson event. Fox’s correspondent Jonathan Hunt also reported from outside the rally venue.
However, members of the traveling White House press pool — the small number of reporters who take turns staying in close proximity to the president and sharing their reporting with others — did cover the event from inside the building.
“Poolers serve as the public’s eyes and ears, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” explained Zeke Miller, the Associated Press reporter who serves as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, hailing “the professionalism of the White House travel pool in a difficult and potentially hazardous situation.”