Donald Trump suggests new reason for canceling New Hampshire rally

The New Hampshire Democratic Party says he "isn’t fooling anyone."

Portsmouth, NH - 06/03/20 -  A boat on the Piscataqua River passes beneath Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth.  The Piscataqua River Bridge carries traffic on Interstate 95 in the background.   Kay Walkingstick, a Native American artist, has made a life's work of painting North American landscapes as a means of reclaiming them for her people. Her newest work, Wabenaki Waters, was painted on New Castle Island, the site of a fortress built to protect colonists in the war of 1812.  (Lane Turner/Globe Staff) Reporter:  (Murray Whyte)  Topic: ()
A boat on the Piscataqua River passes beneath Memorial Bridge in Portsmouth. –Lane Turner / The Boston Globe

President Donald Trump’s campaign said they canceled a planned rally in New Hampshire last month due to the weather.

But in an interview Monday night on HBO, the Republican president suggested a different reason.

Toward the beginning of the roughly 35-minute interview, Trump said the July 11 rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was canceled for “the same reason,” after he was pressed by Axios reporter Jonathan Swan on the decision to hold a previous rally in Oklahoma despite public health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had a great crowd in New Hampshire, and I canceled it for the same reason,” Trump said.

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The campaign originally cited “safety reasons because of Tropical Storm Fay” for the decision to postpone the outdoor rally, which has yet to be rescheduled.

But even before the announcement was made, forecasters said the storm would largely miss Portsmouth. The minimal rain and wind blew over more than 12 hours before the rally was scheduled to begin, giving way to sunny blue skies that Saturday.

Some observers suggested fears about underwhelming attendance were the real cause of the postponement, after Trump’s previous rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was met with less than a sellout crowd.

The New York Times reported at the time that sign-ups indicated the interest in the Portsmouth rally — which caused significant public health concerns among local officials — was significantly lower than rallies before the pandemic. And an unnamed outside adviser to the Trump campaign told NBC News that the potential weather provided a “convenient excuse” to cancel.

“The weather may have been dissuading people to attend, but many weren’t coming to begin with because of the virus,” the adviser said.

In a tweet Tuesday morning, the New Hampshire Democratic Party said that Trump’s latest explanation “isn’t fooling anyone.”

“The past five months have made it abundantly clear that Trump doesn’t care about our health and safety,” the NHDP wrote. “He cancelled his New Hampshire super-spreader rally because he knew he wouldn’t get the crowd size he wanted.”

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Whatever the true reason, the outcome may have been for the best; after the rally in Tulsa, local officials said a subsequent surge in coronavirus cases in the area was “more than likely” linked to the campaign event.

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