His visit came hours after he denied Michigan support for frontline pandemic responders.
FREELAND, MI — Crowds packed in tightly in a mid-Michigan town Thursday night, mostly maskless, without distancing to protect against the coronavirus. It was a general admission frenzy for President Donald Trump’s visit.
It came on the six month anniversary of Michigan’s coronavirus battle and just hours after Trump denied the state support.
The rally was Michigan’s second presidential campaign visit this week, following Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s in-person speech. But the two events looked drastically different.
Biden’s event in Warren on Wednesday had a small crowd, with all attendees wearing masks and six feet apart while seated. The podium was sanitized between speakers.
Trump spoke on the six-month anniversary of the State of Emergency caused by the coronavirus, which has infected over 100,000 Michiganders and claimed more than 6,000 Michigan lives. Most supporters didn’t wear masks at the event and one New York Times Photographer was reportedly kicked out for photographing the lack of social distancing.
Trump’s event in Michigan came hours after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced he had refused Michigan’s request to fund National Guard operations during the pandemic.
“On the day the United States surpassed 190,000 COVID deaths, we learned that the President admitted on tape in February that he knew the dangers of this virus and purposely downplayed it,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement. “Now, he is continuing to play political games while American lives and livelihoods are on the line. The president’s blatantly partisan cuts to funding for National Guard units in all but five states is dangerous and could cost American lives.”
The five states to retain federal funding for National Guard operations are Florida, Texas, Arizona, Connecticut, and California.
The National Guard has performed key roles as frontline responders to the pandemic. In Michigan, they have performed widespread testing for the virus, particularly in underserved communities or of vulnerable populations. They have distributed personal protective equipment. They have worked at food banks.
Michigan’s elected officials, from Gov. Whitmer to Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters to all but one of Michigan’s congressional representatives have sent letters to the White House and FEMA attempting to restore funding for the National Guard for over a month, but have been unsuccessful.
“Our Guard members have been vital to our COVID-19 response by testing thousands of people in communities across the state during the height of the pandemic, and will be crucial to our recovery efforts moving forward,” said Gov. Whitmer. “It’s irresponsible and irrational to fully fund National Guard activities in some states but not others. We need the president to step up and do the right thing for Michigan families, our frontline workers, and our economy.”
Trump has fought with Michigan over the pandemic since the beginning; limiting the state’s access to equipment, encouraging protests of pandemic protections in Lansing, and threatening the state over Michigan’s efforts to make mail-in voting easier during the pandemic.
“Donald Trump is holding a rally in Michigan today—while also refusing to fully fund their National Guard,” Biden tweeted Thursday. “Michiganders need a pandemic response—not a pep rally.”