US President Donald Trump made his first public appearance since being diagnosed with covid-19, addressing a crowd of supporters at the White House on Saturday.
“First of all, I feel great,” Trump said from a balcony to chants and cheers from supporters gathered on the South Lawn below.
It is just over a week since Trump announced he had tested positive for coronavirus. His doctors have cleared him to hold public events, 24 days before he faces Democratic rival Joe Biden in the presidential election on November 3.
The White House has not released the results of Trump’s latest COVID-19 test, and has declined to say when he last tested negative. Trump addressed his controversial decision to leave hospital whilst still undergoing treatment to greet supporters.
“I took a little heat for it, but I do it again. Let me tell you, I’d do it again,” he said.
Saturday’s gathering at the White House was officially called a presidential rather than campaign event. On the official schedule it is described as:
“The president delivers remarks at a peaceful protest for law and order.” The event is organised by a foundation called “Blexit”, which aims to get black and Latino voters to support the Republican party.
“We call this a peaceful protest…in support of the incredible men and women of law enforcement and all of the people that work so well with us,” Trump said.
Trump, who has campaigned on a law-and-order theme during recent months of sometimes violent protests for racial justice, told the crowd that rogue police officers would be punished for any wrongdoing. But, he added, “We must never allow MOB rule.”
Trump’s efforts to portray himself as tough on crime have had little impact on his standing in national opinion polls, which show him trailing his Democratic challenger Joe Biden by double digits. But the gap between the two candidates is narrower in the battleground states that may determine who wins the White House.
As expected, Trump lashed out at his rival during his speech on Saturday.
“Sleepy Joe Biden’s betrayed Black and Latino Americans. If you think he can run this country, you’re wrong,” the president said to a chorus of boos from his supporters.
Trump also said the US was going to eradicate the virus, which he labeled as the “China virus”, claiming a vaccine would be ready “very, very soon”.
“We’re producing powerful therapies and drugs and we’re healing the sick and we’re going to recover and the vaccine is coming out very, very quickly in record time, as you know, it’s coming out very, very soon. We have great, great companies doing it and they’ll be distributing it,” he said.
Trump will hold a campaign rally in central Florida on Tuesday, a must-win state for his hopes of a second term. His campaign also announced events in Pennsylvania and Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday.