GOP official says ‘no final decision’ on banning press from Charlotte convention

GOP official says ‘no final decision’ on banning press from Charlotte convention
GOP official says ‘no final decision’ on banning press from Charlotte convention (Source: Charlotte Observer)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - A Republican convention official said Sunday that ‘no final decision” has been made to ban reporters from this month’s convention in Charlotte.

Multiple media outlets reported that no press will be allowed in the hall where delegates formally renominate President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

“No final decision has been made and we are still working through logistics and press coverage options,” a convention official told the Observer Sunday. “We are working with the parameters set before us by state and local guidelines regarding the number of people who can attend events.”

An order by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper currently limits the size of indoor gatherings to 10 people. It’s unclear whether that would change by the time the convention is due to start Aug. 24.

The possible press exclusion was first reported by the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, which quoted an unidentified convention spokesman saying they were closing it because of health reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic. Reports said portions could be live-streamed.

It would be the first time in modern history that no press witnesses the nomination of a party’s presidential candidate. Scheduled for Aug. 24-27, the convention was once expected to bring 15,000 journalists to Charlotte.

“This is historically unprecedented,” said political scientist Michael Bitzer of Catawba College. “To deny the press and the publicity that the president would get from the renomination vote shows that we’re just breaking new norms again.”

The news of the possible press ban apparently came as a surprise to some GOP delegates.

“I would think we would have the press do the vote, the nomination, like we do at a regular convention,” said state Rep. Mark Brody, a member of the Republican National Committee. “That’s how you get your message out.”

The development is the latest twist in the roller coaster saga of the GOP convention.

In June, after two years of planning for the event in Charlotte, Trump announced he would move most of it to Jacksonville, Fla., after Cooper declined to guarantee a full house at Spectrum Arena. Then last month, Trump abruptly canceled the Jacksonville events after Florida’s spike in COVID-19 cases.

Convention officials said the business portions of the convention, including the nominations, would still be held in Charlotte with 336 delegates.

But just three weeks before the start, few details have been released. Officials have said their credentials committee would meet Aug. 23 with the nominations the next day. They said there would be several days of convention programming but have released no details.

Democrats, who have drastically curtailed events in Milwaukee, have released a schedule for their convention which is scheduled to start Aug. 17.

The question about media access is the latest twist in the roller coaster saga of the GOP convention.

In June, after two years of planning for the event in Charlotte, Trump announced he would move most of it to Jacksonville, Fla., after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper declined to guarantee a full house at Spectrum Arena. Then last month Trump abruptly canceled the Jacksonville events after Florida’s spike in COVID-19 cases.

Convention officials said the business portions of the convention, including the nominations, would still be held in Charlotte with 336 delegates. They said there would still be several days of convention programming, though details have not been released.

Despite hints that he would accept the nomination in North Carolina, it’s unclear where the president will actually do it.

“This seems like the latest in a long list of Donald Trump’s bizarre, authoritarian tendencies,” N.C. Democratic Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. “Have Republicans forgotten that the First Amendment includes the Freedom of the Press? Nominating a candidate for President of the United States is important news and the press ban makes one wonder, ‘What are they hiding?’”

The Associated Press reported that some delegates are reluctant to come to Charlotte given the mandatory quarantines imposed by other states on people returning from North Carolina.