Donald Trump arrived in Tulsa Saturday for his first rally in months as supporters dismissed coronavirus fears to hear the USA president - but several staffers on his advance team tested positive for COVID-19 and crowds appeared smaller than promised.
Six members of Trump's team had tested positive for coronavirus in Tulsa a mere hours before the president arrived in the state.
Those in attendance were even asked to waive their rights to sue the Trump campaign, should they catch the virus.
"And so we saw that have an impact in terms of people coming to the rally".
The Saturday rally also came as USA states and cities have begun removing statues of Confederate figures amid a national reckoning over police brutality and racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who died on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.
A White House official told reporters later that Trump was joking about slowing down testing.
She told Newstalk Breakfast: "It's fantastic the number of things that this administration declares are sarcasm or joking or whatever - "fake news" - when it doesn't come out the way [it wants]".
Large gatherings in the United States were shut down in March because of the coronavirus. I can name, Kung Flu, I can name, 19 different versions of names.
"'Oh, it's a joke' - it's not a joke".
Jacinda Ardern calls in military after New Zealand quarantine blunder
They must be disciplined, and they must have the confidence of ministers and all of you - New Zealanders - who got us here. However, the pair were allowed to leave isolation early to comfort a relative after a parent died.
The rally was still thought to be the biggest indoor event in the country since lockdown measures were introduced to combat Covid-19.
The rally was held amid fears it could become a coronavirus "super spreader" event. The two groups claimed they pulled a prank when they registered and secured potentially hundreds of tickets to the rally only so there would be empty seats when the event actually happened.
"There were empty seats - but make no mistake, there were thousands of people gathered indoors". Only a handful of attendees wore masks inside the arena.
Some of the flak comes from presidential challenger Joe Biden and other Democrats, but a handful of fellow Republicans - including Trump's former national security advisor John Bolton, who wrote a scathing memoir - have also landed painful blows. In 1921, Tulsa was the scene of a massacre in which white mobs attacked black people and businesses, killing an estimated 300 people.
"There were factors involved, like they were concerned about the protesters who were coming in".
"But this disease is not over".
The stadium has a capacity of 19,000 but organisers had said only 10,000 people would be allowed to enter.
Attendees of the rally received a mask from organizers before entering the event, but majority did not wear it inside the arena, which can hold 19,000 people.
Ahead of the November 3 election the Republican president is trailing in opinion polls to Biden, who has hammered Trump for his response to the protests and the pandemic.
The campaign called on Trump opponents to reserve thousands of tickets they had no intention of using. Murtaugh quickly blamed "radical protesters" and the media for seeking to "frighten off the president's supporters".
The small crowds of pre-rally demonstrators were largely peaceful.