N.C. Gov. Cooper responds to Trump RNC tweet: Pandemic response can not be political

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 10:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has responded to tweets from President Donald Trump threatening to pull the Republican National Convention (RNC) from Charlotte if the state cannot guarantee full attendance at the convention.

“I’m not surprised by anything that I see on Twitter,” Gov. Cooper said. “I will say that it’s okay for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be.”

President Trump’s tweets came in a series Monday morning.

“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed...” Trump tweeted.

"...full attendance in the Arena. In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space. Plans are being....

...made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August. They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced... find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!" Trump tweeted.

Gov. Cooper said state officials have already been in talks with the RNC about the kind of convention they would need to hold and the kinds of options needed. The Republican National Convention is set for August 24 through August 27 at the Spectrum Center. It was expected to bring nearly 50,000 people to the city.

“We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding COVID-19 in North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said.

Gov. Cooper mentioned conversations state health officials have been having with the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets and other large arena owners about precautions to take when considering holding large events in North Carolina in the coming months.

“Everyone wants to get back into action soon,” Gov. Cooper said. "But I think everybody knows that we have to take some steps to make sure that people are protected, because this virus is still going to be with us in August and we’re going to have to take steps to protect people.

Gov. Cooper says officials have asked the RNC to present their written proposals for plans for the convention. Cooper said officials have had discussions about the possibility of a limited convention among other options.

Cooper said NASCAR did a great job of presenting their plans and adhering to many safety guidelines, and he looks forward to having positive conversations with the RNC as well.

“We’d like to reach a resolution that everyone can be reasonable about that puts public healthy, safety, the science and the facts as the number one thing we’re trying to do here,” Gov. Cooper said.

President Trump later Monday said he would like to keep the convention in Charlotte, as he responded to reports by the New York Times that he expressed interest in moving the convention to Miami. The president denied that claim.

North Carolina is currently under a Phase 2 of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, which limits indoor gatherings to 10 people. Phase 2 is expected to be in effect until June 26, but it’s unclear what restrictions will be place beyond that.

A spokesperson for Gov. Roy Cooper responded in a statement, saying that state health officials are working with the RNC on plans for the convention.

“State health officials are working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety"

At a press conference Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president wants to see the RNC go forward in North Carolina and sees “no reason not to” have the convention at this time.

Already, two other governors are offering up their states to host the Republican National Convention. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sent an open plea to Trump on Tuesday to consider his state as an alternate site for the quadrennial convention, which is set to gather more than 2,500 delegates and thousands more guests, press and security officials.

Kemp’s offer was followed by one from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told reporters at a Miami news conference that he “would love” to have the GOP or even the Democratic convention, as either would bring millions of dollars to the state.

On Monday, Charlotte City Council member Ed Driggs, one of the council’s two Republicans, questioned Trump’s authority to pull the convention. Charlotte has contracted with the party’s Committee on Arrangements.

Driggs said he doubted that any other city could put together a convention now given the two-year process Charlotte has undertaken, including arranging a venue, hotel space and related contracts. He said the council has already accepted a $50 million federal security grant for the convention in April.

“This is the kind of thing that happens in politics, where, and particularly the president is known for dramatic gestures,” Driggs said. “I don’t know whether that tweet by him is supported by the Republican Party and all the people with whom we have been in negotiation for a couple of years.”

Several businesses in Uptown are concerned about the RNC possibly being moved to a different city, saying they were relying on the boost in the economy after the COVID19 shutdown.

Mohammed Jenatian, Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance

“All the hotels in Charlotte are booked for the convention. All the restaurants, all the venues and everything else, that’s the biggest thing they have to look forward to. The impact they have is going to be phenomenal," siad Mohammed Jenation, President of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance.

“It will be a great financial boom for the restaurant industry and the hotel industry. I think just a shot in the arm not only for the economy, but the psyche for the region," said Jon Dressler, who owns several restaurants near Uptown.

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