The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republican National Committee disputes GOP convention spokesperson’s claim that Trump’s renomination will be closed to media

Donald Trump and his family are joined by Mike Pence and his family on stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

The Republican National Committee says no final decision has been made about whether President Trump’s renomination will be held in private at the GOP convention in Charlotte, contradicting previous reports that restrictions on crowd size during the coronavirus pandemic would prevent the news media from attending.

Two RNC officials insisted Sunday that they are still working through the logistics and press coverage options, a break with a statement reportedly made by a GOP convention spokesperson the previous day.

“We are still working through logistics and press coverage options,” one of the officials said in a statement Sunday. Neither of the officials was authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

On Saturday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that, according to a convention spokesperson, all activities related to the quadrennial event — including Trump’s Aug. 24 renomination — would be closed to reporters “given the health restrictions and limitations in place” in North Carolina.

President Trump on July 23 canceled part of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Fla., one month after moving it to allow for larger crowds. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Other news outlets, including the Associated Press and CNN, followed up with similar reports. If journalists are not allowed to cover the event in person, it would mark the first time in modern history that such a restriction was enacted at a national party convention.

The apparent walkback is the latest turn in a Republican National Convention planning process marked by tumult and uncertainty.

This year’s convention originally had been scheduled to take place in Charlotte. But state officials said they could not guarantee a large-scale event in the city amid the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 150,000 Americans. Advisers scoured the country for an alternative venue, settling on Jacksonville, Fla., where the mayor and the state’s governor are allies of the president.

Anesthesiologist Islaam Elnagar describes what he is seeing inside a rural hospital outside Tampa, Fla. (Video: The Washington Post)

Then, amid a surge in coronavirus cases in Florida, Trump late last month abruptly announced that he was canceling the celebrations scheduled to take place in Jacksonville.

At the time, Trump told reporters that he would still give an acceptance speech in some form but that it will not be before a crowd of thousands.

The formal nominating process, set to take place in Charlotte with about 300 Republican officials, is scheduled to proceed as planned.

Democrats are planning a four-day convention that will be anchored in Milwaukee, with simulcasts from satellite locations across the country and prerecorded video. Delegates and party officials have been told to stay home, and the in-person crowd for major speeches, including former vice president Joe Biden’s acceptance of the nomination, is expected to be small.

Michael Scherer contributed to this report.