A spokesman for the Republican National Committee tells CNN that “no final decision has been made” on whether reporters will be allowed to cover the Republican National Convention in person, a day after a convention spokesperson said the convention would be “closed press.
“No final decision has been made and we are still working through logistics and press coverage options,” RNC communications director Michael Ahrens told CNN on Sunday. “We are working with the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”
On Saturday, a convention spokesperson said given North Carolina’s health restrictions related to the coronavirus, they are “planning for the Charlotte activities to be closed press,” meaning reporters would not be allowed on site as delegates vote to formally nominate President Donald Trump as the 2020 Republican presidential nominee — an unprecedented restriction in modern American political history. A Republican official familiar with the planning told CNN the proceedings would instead be livestreamed.
Ahrens confirmed Sunday that “a livestream is part of the press coverage options we are working through” for the convention, but made clear the logistics of the scaled-back convention remain in flux.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced both parties to rethink their convention planning. CNN previously reported that the Democratic National Convention will feature just two hours of prime time programming on each of the four nights of their convention — one of the starkest signs yet of how unconventional this year’s gathering will be. And the RNC has repeatedly shifted its plans and made numerous changes to the nominating process.
For months, Trump insisted on accepting the GOP nomination before a massive crowd and pushed the RNC to look for a new venue to host an in-person convention after North Carolina’s Democratic governor raised public health concerns about having massive gatherings in Charlotte.
Beyond the restrictions on press coverage, the RNC has also reduced the number of delegates who will be on hand for the proceedings due to coronavirus-related capacity restrictions imposed by the state of North Carolina. Just 336 delegates will vote at the convention proceedings — one for every six delegates.
Susan Glasser, a writer for The New Yorker and CNN global affairs analyst called a decision to bar reporters from convention activities “breathtaking.”
“It’s certainly something that the press will protest greatly,” Glasser told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Saturday. “The lack of transparency on such a significant event — it really seems that Republicans are afraid to have journalists interview the delegates to their own convention.”
The dramatically scaled-down GOP convention comes as Trump and his campaign is facing criticism over the President’s comment that he could change the date of the presidential election.
As polls show his rival, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, with an advantage in some key states, Trump on Thursday explicitly floated delaying the November 3 election, claiming without evidence that the contest would be flawed due to the expected increase in vote by mail.
Though he didn’t entirely back off the idea of a delay, Trump seemed to later acknowledge that his comments were meant primarily to inject uncertainty into the election. The President has no authority to delay an election, instead Congress has the power to set the date for voting.
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams on Sunday blasted Trump’s suggestion that he could delay the 2020 election, saying he is seeking to distract from his “failed leadership” on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.