Donald Trump hosted hundreds of people outside the White House on Saturday for his first in-person event since contracting COVID-19—but his administration wouldn’t say whether he’s still infected with the virus.
“We gotta vote these people into oblivion,” Trump told the crowd of supporters in a brief 18-minute speech from a White House balcony, far shorter than his typical rally addresses.
The in-person event marked Trump’s return to the campaign spotlight after announcing his COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 2 and being hospitalized at Maryland’s Walter Reed hospital.
Trump appeared in several conservative media outlets, and plans to hold rallies in Florida on Monday, Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Iowa on Wednesday.
Earlier on Saturday, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah refused to tell reporters whether Trump is virus-free.
The rally crowd was set back from the balcony where Trump appeared. Attendees had their temperatures checked and were told to wear masks, according to the White House. More than 2,000 people were reportedly invited to the event but fewer turned up.
The event was organized by right-wing personality Candace Owens and her Blexit group, which urges Black voters to “exit” the Democratic Party.
The White House dubbed the event a “peaceful protest for law & order.” Pro-Trump figures have recently adopted the “peaceful protest” terminology as a jab at Black Lives Matter protests held during the pandemic, claiming that MAGA “protests” are allowed in the face of COVID-19 restrictions on gathering size.
Trump mostly repeated his usual rally lines in his balcony appearance, touting the economy and warning that “we will never allow our country to become a socialist nation.” The crowd cheered, chanting “four more years” and “we love you.”
“I love you too,” Trump said, before turning back into the White House.