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Trump Holds 1st Public Event After COVID-19 Diagnosis

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So let's go to the White House now, where President Trump hosted hundreds of supporters on the South Lawn today, his first public event since he was hospitalized for COVID-19. The event was billed as a, quote, "peaceful protest in support of law enforcement," unquote. But the real news was that he was giving the speech at all - just nine days after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: First of all, I'm feeling great. I don't know about you. How's everyone feeling? Good?

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: The election now is just about three weeks away and the president is trailing. So here to talk more about the president's return to the public stage is White House correspondent, Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thanks for joining us.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: Well, you were there. How did he look and sound?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, he looked better. He was pumping his fist and doing his trademark pointing to people. And his voice sounded better. He did not cough as he has in recent interviews. You know, the president really has been eager to get back on the campaign trail and this was basically a first taste of that, speaking with a few hundred supporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I want to thank all of you for your prayers. I know you've been praying. And I was...

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: ...In that hospital. I was watching down over so many people.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, I'll just note that it was a short speech. It was only 16 or 17 minutes which is, you know, shorter than usual. And there really are still a lot of unanswered questions about the president's health, such as when his last negative test was.

MARTIN: Well, the last time there was a public event at the White House, very few in the crowd were wearing masks. What about today?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, that's right. There have been a bunch of those events including the Supreme Court event two weeks ago. That was the one that was called a super spreader event. But people today, they largely wore masks. The president did too when he walked out, you know, before taking it off. I spoke with Hilario Yanez, who traveled from Houston for this event. He said he wasn't concerned and was actually appreciative of the opportunity to support the president.

HILARIO YANEZ: Well, you know, the fact that - I mean the White House has done a great job of, you know, making sure - checking our temperature, making sure we all have the proper procedures and we're all healthy. It's also an outside event. So long as we try to keep ourselves distant and, you know, be outside, we're good.

ORDOÑEZ: So people wore masks, but at the same time, they didn't really social distance. They were grouped together in bunches. And frankly, it got tighter as the president began to speak and people wanted to get closer.

MARTIN: So, Franco, I do have to ask - the event was described by the White House as an official event. Was it?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, it was an event to support law enforcement. And the president definitely leaned into his law and order message. But we've seen the White House being used more for political events such as at the Republican National Convention and this was similar. Many people held signs, and a lot wore Make America Great Again hats.

MARTIN: And finally, the second presidential debate was supposed to be this coming week. That's been officially canceled. So do we know what the president is going to be up to over the next few days?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. Both sides are moving on and the president is returning with force. He is down in most major polls and his campaign really wants to shake things up. He plans to travel to Florida on Monday and then to rallies in Iowa and Pennsylvania. But there are a lot of unanswered questions about his health. We have yet to hear from the White House doctor if the president is still infectious. That's just one example.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRIGHT CAMPA'S "OTHER SIDE OF THE GAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.