Oct. 11 (UPI) — President Donald Trump turned his first post-COVID public appearance into a campaign rally on the White House South Lawn on Saturday, nine days after he was hospitalized for the coronavirus infection.
Thanking supporters for prayers and well wishes for himself and the first lady, within minutes Trump had referred to his Democratic presidential opponent as “Sleepy Joe Biden,” had boasted about the border wall and delivered other material typical of a campaign speech.
“We gotta vote these people into oblivion. Into oblivion. Gotta get rid of ’em. So bad for our country,” the president said.
About 400 people attended the invitation-only event. Trump called the event a peaceful protest for law and order and blamed the “radical Socialist Left” for civil unrest in U.S. cities this summer.
“Where there is evidence of wrongdoing by police, the criminal justice system must investigate and any perpetrators must be held accountable,” Trump said. “But we must never allow mob rule.”
Event organizers of Candace Owens’s BLEXIT Foundation paid for travel and lodging of some attendees and demanded that they wear matching shirts, ABC reported Saturday. Attendees were asked to wear masks, but were packed tightly together, not following social distancing guidelines.
Attendees were also scheduled to attend a pro-law enforcement rally in Washington, D.C.
The speech lasted about 18 minutes, much shorter than Trump’s usual campaign rally remarks, which can last more than an hour.
Trump, with flesh-colored bandages visible on his hands, downplayed his time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and said he was returning to the campaign trail.
“I feel great,” he said. “We are starting very, very big with our rallies and with our everything,” Trump promised. The president has rallies planned in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa next week.
The speech ended with supporters chanting “four more years!” and Trump urging them to “get out and vote — and I love you.”
The president has not been seen in public other than in White House-released videos since his release from the hospital five days ago. The White House declined to say Saturday whether Trump was still potentially contagious from COVID-19 .
The last public event at the White House was the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony to announce Supreme Court Justice candidate Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. Public health officials determined the gathering of more than 200 people was a “super-spreader” event which has been linked to dozens of COVID-19 infections, including those in Trump’s inner circle.
On Saturday, Trump campaign adviser and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he had been released from the hospital following treatment for the coronavirus.
Joe Biden’s campaign said Saturday that he had again tested negative for the virus. Biden’s campaign has been releasing regular updates since Biden appeared on the same Cleveland stage as Trump in a debate on Sept. 29.