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No Show! Trump Cancels Jacksonville GOP Convention

After weeks of warnings from health officials, President Donald Trump on Thursday abruptly decided to play public health hero and cancel the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, announcing plans instead for “some things with telerallies”—just a few days after his private company quietly sought to trademark the idea.

Trump made the announcement just a few minutes in to the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing, declaring that “it’s not the right time” in light of the massive coronavirus outbreak in the state.

Trump said the RNC’s delegates would still meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, and that he would still hold a convention speech, albeit “in a different form.”

“We’re going to do other things, like ‘tele-rallies’ and other, smaller events,” he said.

While Trump attributed his decision to a desire to “protect the American people” and “set an example” amid the pandemic—which has now killed 144,000 Americans—many were quick to note that the pivot to telerallies came about a week after The Washington Post reported that a subsidiary of the Trump Organization filed an application to trademark the term “telerally” for “organizing events in the field of politics and political campaigning.”

The abrupt reversal also came after months of insistence from the president that a spiraling pandemic would somehow not prevent a mass gathering devoted to his re-coronation. It was also a likely source of relief to Florida officials, rank-and-file Republicans, and public health experts everywhere wondering how it could possibly go off.

The status of the RNC’s planned event in Jacksonville was increasingly in doubt in recent days, as the surging coronavirus crisis in Florida broke records on a near-daily basis—and as local officials expressed concern that the Republican National Committee had not sufficiently explained how the event would be conducted safely.