Hundreds of Maskless Trumpkins Pack Turning Point USA Party at Mar-a-Lago
Photo illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty / Handout
Hundreds of maskless revelers - including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem - grabbed President Donald Trump's Palm Beach Club for the annual Turning Point USA Winter Gala on Friday night, violating local COVID 19 guidelines.
Photos of the event, hosted by the right-wing student group that made headlines last month after refusing to cancel its Student Action Summit, showed dozens of maskless guests dining together and at the gala on Friday night all in one Mar-a-Lago ballroom.
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Attendees paid at least $ 2,000 - and more than $ 100,000 - to hear speeches from several Republican A-listers, including Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Other Trumpkins, like Corey Lewandowski and Roger Stone, huddled with guests and took photos. James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, was also present.
Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democratic lawmaker, said the Winter Gala photos were no surprise given that the Trump administration and Florida's GOP leadership are neglecting COVID-19 mitigation measures.
"Time and again we see Republican leaders making their own rules," Eskamani told The Daily Beast. “We are in a crisis in Florida. Not only do these photos show how disconnected the Republican Party is from reality, but it also harms our ability to get out of this pandemic. "
Gabe Nies, a Nashville real estate agent who attended the event, told The Daily Beast that he was invited to the gala by a close friend and flown down from Tennessee for the night.
"I was really grateful for the opportunity to be there and, so to speak, among friends and people I am with," said Nies, insisting that he not feel unsafe.
Nies, who admitted having had COVID-19 about a month ago, said everyone who went to the event wore masks - and then dropped them as soon as they sat down.
"It wasn't like we were avoiding each other, but it wasn't like we weren't careful either," said Nies. “Were we crazy and scared and scared? No, our life is not closed. We keep moving and supporting causes we believe in. "
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all Americans use face covers to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, especially when used in conjunction with social distancing and during indoor gatherings.
Photos posted online show at least a dozen packed tables at the Mar-a-Lago gala, making social distancing impossible. Other photos from the event show guests with their arms around each other as they pose for pictures in various areas of Trump's club, including the swimming pool and near a white marble staircase.
“A great evening with a great patriot. Trump is still prez, "the actress Sam Sorbo posted on Instagram next to a photo with McEnany.
The Winter Gala brazenly violated Palm Beach County's COVID-19 policy of requiring face coverings “in all businesses and facilities”. Photos of the gala only show waiters who keep the mask mandate. To date, 20,567 people have died in Florida and another 17.9 million infected with the virus.
Jill Roberts, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of South Florida, told The Daily Beast it was a "shame we keep having events like this" that the coronavirus can easily spread.
"As always, super-spreading can occur at events with a large number of people and puts not only those people in attendance at risk, but also the essential employees who have no choice but to attend," said Roberts, adding that the event top-class ". and sent the "wrong message".
“The event is social and not strictly necessary. The risks encountered here were completely avoidable and indeed pose a risk to the surrounding communities and, moreover, to larger communities from which the main workers are likely to commute. The event continues to deviate from the news between senior government officials and public health, to the detriment of the most vulnerable, ”the professor added.
The gala kicked off with the four-day “Student Action Summit” for Turning Point USA, to which Vice President Mike Pence will speak on Tuesday.
"This event represents freedom," said Charlie Kirk, the group's 27-year-old founder, during his 15-minute speech on Saturday in which he broke COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Palm Beach Post. "That you won't lock us up and silence us any longer."
In order to attend the summit, according to the Turning Point website, guests were required to sign a waiver stating that they were willing to "voluntarily assume all risks associated with exposure to COVID-19". The group also controversially said last month that it refused to implement a mask mandate at the gala or four-day event.
"Everyone has their own freedom and must exercise it responsibly ... and that this is part of the spirit of this event," TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet previously told Business Insider.
At least a hundred young Republicans chanting, "Let's go in!" Were locked out of the Palm Beach County Convention Center Saturday after Turning Point USA oversold tickets for the first day of its summit. Verdenia Baker, Palm Beach County administrator, told the Palm Beach Post that the Republican student group "oversold its contract capacity by 500 to 600 people."
The event, which reached its 2,000-person capacity, included keynote speeches from Fox News presenters Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr., who also spoke to the locked crowd using a megaphone. Carlson and Sebastian Gorka were also seen outside of the group.
“The convention center is sticking to the contractual agreement with Turning Point with a capacity of 2,000 people. This prevents 500 to 600 people from entering the convention center, ”said Baker. However, a Turning Point spokesperson has denied the group oversold the event or breached their contract with the city.
"We had a plan - as soon as the number was reached - to move children to other rooms," Kolvet told the sales outlet. "Once they locked the foyer doors, students couldn't come in to get their badges."
The Florida Department of Health and Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker did not respond to The Daily Beast's requests for comment. A Palm Beach sheriff's spokesman also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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