UFC president Dana White used his pre-recorded speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday to give an emphatic, if at times misleading, pitch for the reelection of President Trump.
“We need President Trump’s leadership now more than ever,” White said before launching into a full-throated defense of the president’s handling of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 180,000 Americans and infected nearly 6 million.
“Let’s talk about COVID, and let’s be very honest about it,” White said. “No one person and no one place could have anticipated the challenges that COVID would bring, but President Trump has faced all of these obstacles head on.”
Many people had anticipated the challenges that a pandemic might bring, which is why the administration’s handling of COVID-19 has been criticized, given the president’s initial refusal to recognize the danger from the virus and the administration’s slowness in ramping up testing.
“It was clear,” White said, “his highest priority was the health and safety of everyone in our country. Not just Republicans, not just supporters, but every single American.”
In fact, the administration doled out, or withheld, assistance to states based on Trump’s assessment of how much appreciation their governors showed him. “I told [Vice President Pence] not to be complimentary of [Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington], because that governor is a snake,” Trump said of Inslee. “And if you’re nice to him, he will take advantage.”
Trump “immediately put protective measures in place,” White said, “and he reached out to the best and the brightest leading American businesses across all industries, to discuss what he and his administration could do to get the economy back up and running safely.”
Experts said that opening states too early would be dangerous, but Trump continued to push, criticizing states that had extended lockdowns and calling for their “liberation,” even though they did not meet the criteria the administration itself had set for reopening.
“President Trump recognized that one of the small ways to instill a sense of normalcy in people’s lives was to bring back entertainment options,” White said. “President Trump went above and beyond to help all sports leagues reopen.”
The UFC, which sponsors mixed martial arts fights, was the first professional sporting organization to hold an event after the initial lockdown in spring, with a closed doors pay-per-view held in Jacksonville after an earlier attempt in April was canceled.
White, who also spoke at the 2016 Republican convention, served on a task force of business leaders Trump organized in April, three months after the first confirmed COVID-19 case was reported in the United States.
“Firsthand, I had the opportunity to witness how hardworking and determined President Trump was to solve unprecedented problems our country was facing,” White said. “I personally observed his ability to listen and understand the issues impacting Americans of all backgrounds. It was clear his highest priority was always the health and safety of everyone in our country.”
Polls suggest, however, that a vast majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. A Gallup poll released on Aug. 17 found 63 percent disapprove of the president’s response to the pandemic, compared to just 36 percent who approve.
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