Trump holds political rally in virus hotspot
Donald Trump has doubled down on his controversial use of the term "Kung Flu" to describe coronavirus, to the delight of a raucous crowd at his re-election rally in Arizona today.
The US President spoke to a crowd of about 3000 students at the Dream City megachurch in Phoenix, at an event sponsored by the conservative group Turning Point USA.
Unlike his rally on Saturday, which was held at a cavernous 19,000-seat arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this one drew pretty much a full house.
That would have improved the President's mood.
It also made the distinct lack of face masks in the crowd more of a concern.
Arizona lifted its stay-at-home order last month, and is now enduring an increasingly worrying second wave of coronavirus infections.
Today the state recorded its highest number of new cases in a single 24-hour period, and hospitalisations also reached a new peak.
Phoenix's Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, had urged the President and his supporters to wear masks at the rally.
"While I do not believe an event of this magnitude can be held safely, particularly as Arizona sees rising COVID cases, the President has decided to continue with this rally," Ms Gallego said yesterday.
"Everyone attending tomorrow's event, particularly any elected official, should set an example to residents by wearing a mask. This includes the President."
Mr Trump, however, was unconcerned.
"It's going away," he said of the virus, accusing "the fake news people" of overhyping the problem.
"We did the right thing; now we open. We've got to get it open.
"People get sick from the other, also. It's not just the virus. They get sick from all of the other things that happen. You know what I mean."
Mr Trump boasted that the US was leading the world on coronavirus testing.
"Other countries that have done very well with testing, they call us, they say, 'There's nobody that's been able to do the job that you've done,'" he claimed.
"The only ones I can't get to say that is the fake news people."
And he said the US mortality rate was extremely low.
"Our mortality rate is so low. It's so great what's happened," he said.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has a mortality rate of 5.2 per cent among those who test positive for coronavirus. That is the seventh-worst rate in the world.
Looking at its mortality rate as a proportion of total population, it has suffered 37 deaths per 100,000 people, which is fourth-worst in the world, behind only Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In total, the US has recorded 2.4 million confirmed infections, with a death toll of 123,000.
Mr Trump's critics accused him of using a racist nickname for the virus at his rally in Tulsa, where he referred to it as the "Kung Flu".
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany brushed off that criticism.
"He is linking it to its place of origin," she told reporters.
"I think the media is trying to play games with the terminology of this virus, where the focus should be on the fact that China let this out of their country."
In Phoenix, the President seemed to delight in using the nickname again.
"You ever notice - I said the other night, did anybody see my speech the other night, on Saturday night?" Mr Trump asked the crowd of students.
"I said the other night, there's never been anything with so many names. I could give you 19 or 20 names for that, right? It's got all different names.
"Wuhan. Wuhan was catching on. Coronavirus, right?"
At that point, one very enthusiastic supporter in the crowd shouted "Kung Flu" loudly enough to cut through the general buzz of noise.
"Kung Flu, yeah. Kung Flu. Kung Flu," Mr Trump said.
The crowd roared appreciatively.
The President uses the term “Kung Flu” again and says “COVID, COVID-19, COVID, I said what’s the 19. COVID-19, some people can’t explain the 19.” pic.twitter.com/9tD6dC8aGB— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) June 23, 2020
"COVID. COVID-19. COVID," the President continued.
"I said, 'What's the 19?' COVID-19, some people can't explain what the 19. Give me - COVID-19, I said, 'That's an odd name.' I could give you many, many names."
For the record, the disease is named COVID-19 because it is a coronavirus which was identified in 2019. Simple enough.
"Some people call it the Chinese flu, China flu," he went on.
"I've never seen anything like it. But here's the story, we are going to be stronger than ever before, and it's going to be soon."
Before his speech today, Mr Trump visited the southern edge of Arizona, which is on the border with Mexico, and inspected a section of his new wall.
The President and a few other officials stopped to sign the structure.
"My administration has done more than any administration in history to secure our southern border," Mr Trump said.
"This is the most powerful and comprehensive border wall structure anywhere in the world."
He said 354km of the wall had been constructed. He did not mention "the fine print", as it was labelled by The Los Angeles Times - that only five of those kilometres were in areas where fencing did not previously exist.
The remaining 349km consists of areas where existing barriers have been upgraded.
During the 2016 election campaign, Mr Trump promised to build a wall along the entire 3100km border, and to make Mexico pay for it.
The first half of that promise is still very much a work in progress; the second remains a fantasy. As it stands, the $US15 billion ($A21.6 billion) bill has been picked up by American taxpayers.
At a roundtable discussion on border security at the border patrol station in Yuma, Mr Trump promised that 725km would be finished by the end of the year.
"During the past two months, we've seen the lowest number of illegal border crossings in many years. Illegal immigration is down 84 per cent from this time last year. Illegal crossings from Central America are down 97 per cent," Mr Trump said.
"Now, the news - I won't say 'fake news', I want to be nice today. So the news will say, '97 per cent, that's not very good.' But 97 per cent, I would say, sounds pretty good.
"It's a tremendous - you know, you hear it's a wall, but it's a wall that's very big and very long and very powerful. And the Democrats didn't want to do it.
"They want open borders and they don't want walls. And they fought harder than anybody I've ever seen. And in the end, they quit. They gave up.
"Everything changes in the world. They change fast. Change is so fast. You do a computer, and it's obsolete in two weeks. But two things that have never changed - a wall and a wheel. We're going to always have wheels, and we're going to always have walls. And we have the best security wall ever built. And we'll have it completed very soon."
Originally published as Crowd loses it at Trump's new nickname