We already knew the Republican National Convention in Charlotte was going to be a really scaled-back affair due to coronavirus restrictions. But now it looks like it could also be the first convention in modern history to be closed to the press. Although it seems the issue is still under discussion, if plans go ahead as scheduled it means there will be no journalists in the room when delegates formally vote to renominate President Donald Trump. “We are planning for all of the Charlotte activities to be closed press: Friday, August 21 – Monday, 24th given the health restrictions and limitations in place in the state,” a spokesperson for the convention told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which was first to report the news that was later confirmed by several other news outlets. “We are happy to let you know if this changes, but we are working within the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”
The news comes after the Republican National Convention has gone through lots of changes in previous weeks. Trump had previously said the convention would be held in Jacksonville, Florida rather than Charlotte because of coronavirus restrictions. But late last month, Trump scrapped the Jacksonville plans amid fears that it was going to be sparsely attended. “I looked at my team and I said the timing for this event is not right. It’s just not right,” Trump said at the time. “To have a big convention, it’s not the right time.”
Even though press won’t be allowed to attend, several portions of the convention proceedings will be livestreamed, including the vote to formally renominate Trump. Due to space restrictions, only 336 delegates will vote at the convention on behalf of the more than 2,500 official delegates.
Several journalists spoke up against banning the press at the convention, including Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller, who characterized it as “ill-advised.” But he later suggested the decision may yet change, writing on Twitter that officials “are still working through press coverage options.” The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out that Trump is trying to have it both ways by being “angry at coronavirus-related closures and using the cover they provide to bar press.” Haberman later added that even though Aug 21-23 will be closed to the press, it still is unclear what will be the plan for the 24th, when the vote to renominate Trump will be held.
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