President Donald Trump claimed during a North Carolina telephone “rally” on Sunday night that the state’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had told him that the Republican National Convention in Charlotte would need to be limited to “10 people” in a 19,000-seat arena.
Cooper says he never said that.
“That is incorrect,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter told CNN in an email on Monday, when asked about Trump’s claim.
“The Governor and state health officials worked with the RNC to safely hold their convention and asked for written plans for keeping attendees safe. Instead, beginning on Memorial Day, the President and RNC staff demanded a guarantee that they could hold a full convention without social distancing or face coverings. This was not a guarantee the Governor could make, particularly months in advance.”
The Republicans’ June decision to move most of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, followed a dispute between Trump and Cooper about the governor’s insistence on safety measures related to the coronavirus pandemic. The famously crowd-conscious Trump demanded that Cooper make a decision in late May that there could be a packed Spectrum Center in late August.
“But Roy Cooper said you can’t have people meeting in a room. He actually told me the most you can have meeting — we have a 19,000-seat center as you know — and he said the most you can have is 10 people because that’s what the rules are, 10 people,” Trump said Sunday. “He actually said that, I don’t know. I guess he meant it. He thought he could start negotiating from there, but he didn’t really want to negotiate. He wanted to give it up.”
But Cooper’s spokesman said the governor never told Trump, Trump’s campaign or Republican officials that there could only be 10 people present in the arena.
Florida’s coronavirus situation has worsened since the convention was moved there. Jacksonville has since imposed a mask requirement for the city — and Republicans decided in July to scale down the convention after all.
On the first three days, only delegates will be allowed to attend, keeping attendance to about 2,500 people; the arena has a capacity of about 15,000. On the fourth day, when Trump is expected to accept the Republican presidential nomination, alternate delegates and some delegates’ guests will be allowed in, for a total of about 7,000 people.