More unnecessary drama unfolded Thursday night at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Des Moines between the mainstream media and Team Trump.
Just a couple hours after doors to the Knapp Center opened, the building hit capacity, which prompted the fire marshal, Rick Thomas, to shut all the doors.
“When that happens, Secret Service can’t sweep people and we can’t get anybody else cleared and into the building,” said Erin Perrine, principal deputy communications director for Trump 2020. “It was a hard-close on the doors.”
That doesn’t mean the campaign didn’t try to find a way to allow more press into the building. After talks with the Secret Service, staffers and the fire marshal, it became evident the doors would remain closed.
“We did everything we could to try to get them to reopen the door for press and they said we were at capacity and that was not able to happen,” Perrine said.
Normally, the campaign tries to get the press in earlier just in case the doors must close early, but this time it allowed a larger press re-entry window. And when the fire marshal ordered doors closed, it was done due to safety regulations, which exceptions difficult, if not impossible.
Some credentialed press with equipment already set up couldn’t get back into the building either.
“It was a rare circumstance,” Perrine said. “I can’t even think of another time where this kind of situation has happened. But on this campaign, we pride ourselves on our ability to work closely with the press. We talk to the White House Correspondents Association all the time to make sure there’s more access for the press to get in, but to do so safely.”
Some reporters took to Twitter to express their displeasure with the campaign, claiming that staff yelled at the press.
However, there hasn’t been any video released showing a Trump campaign staffer yelling at members of the press, which in 2020 you’d expect to see if the yelling actually happened. Instead, the public just has to trust the reporters are telling the truth, which isn’t something most Americans are willing to do.
Perrine pointed to a pair of reporters who stuck around outside and did pieces on Trump’s supporters.
“Two reporters who stood outside, instead of firing off nasty tweets at staff or doing anything else along those lines, stayed and engaged with supporters and both wrote really great stories,” Perrine said. “The reporters who went and editorialized from a bar or a restaurant or their hotel room really missed the opportunity at a cool story there.”
Some complaints of standing outside in 30-degree weather were also voiced. Maybe those members of the media will have a greater appreciation for the thousands of Trump supporters who line up for Trump rallies, sometimes days in advance, in all sorts of weather.
I can’t speak for every member of the press. But I can say that from the planning stages through the execution of the rally to the conclusion, I had nothing but a positive experience. I can say the same thing about covering the Women For Trump bus tour as well as Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Sioux City.
The Daily Iowan wrote an editorial with the headline “Trump campaign mishandles, mistreats the press in Des Moines.” Again, throughout the story, there is no video of any mistreatment.
It’s obvious Trump wants media coverage. So it makes no sense for media to suggest his campaign intentionally kept them out of the event.
I could slip in a line about how if the press wasn’t constantly low-balling the attendance of Trump rallies, maybe more members of the media would’ve realized they should have made it into the Knapp Center sooner, but I won’t.
Perrine told The Iowa Standard that Trump’s team has worked to increase access for the press at his events. For example, the protocol used to be having the press in their spots an hour before the President’s arrival. However, they worked with the Secret Service to make it 30 minutes, which provides press an extra 30 minutes to walk around and work their stories if they want.
The accusation that the Trump campaign “mishandled” and “mistreated” the press just adds fuel to an unnecessary, petty fight that the media needs to learn it will not win.
It isn’t complicated to understand. There is a limit to how many people the Knapp Center can safely hold. That limit was reached. Period. End of story.
At least it should have been.
Instead, the media used it as an opportunity to try to make Team Trump look bad. But there is no reason for the average Iowan to believe it was intentional sabotage of the media.
I was told that people were crushing upon the doors at the media entrance, to the point where doors couldn’t be pushed open outwards.
That’s a safety hazard.
The Daily Iowans wrote, “while this exclusion could have been a legitimate capacity problem, it seems unlikely given what is known about the president and his campaign organization.”
But how do they explain all the press that did make it inside?
The editorial also states Trump pointed to the “sparse press” that was allowed to attend. I was standing right there, if that is sparse, I’d hate to see packed.
Here are some photos of the “sparse press” that was in attendance:
Photos courtesy of Barbara Hovland
We are told the print press is pictured at the top of this photo. But it’s difficult to differentiate between press and rally-goers without the camera equipment of other media. By the way, notice there isn’t a whole lot of open seats in the crowd.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Bruns Clayton
Clayton, by the way, told The Iowa Standard she was standing by the entrance for the press and the press area all day.
“They were treated with great respect and deference,” Clayton said. “I saw NPR was in the venue interviewing people. Maybe The Daily Iowan needed to arrive earlier. I watched as media trickled in for over three hours. They had a special entrance with no or very little line most of the day. When the venue reached capacity at about 4:30, the doors were closed.”
It is laughable to suggest, as the editorial does, that this incident was about “intimidating the free press.”
Look, the Trump campaign issued credentials to interested members of the media from what I can tell. If the campaign didn’t want media there, they wouldn’t have issued credentials.
It wasn’t the campaign’s fault that reporters from certain media outlets didn’t get to the building in time.
The Daily Iowan writes that “journalists are more than a campaign-rally prop and a target for Trump’s jeers.”
But writing an entire editorial blasting the President of the United States and his campaign over pure speculation isn’t reflective of serious journalists.
Not at all.
Instead, it is reflective of an attempt by leftist media members who want to take every chance they get to discredit President Trump. And it’s exactly why a minority of Americans believe they can trust today’s media.
More photos of the “sparse press” are included:
Photo by Susan Turner Petersen
Photo by Will Jacoby