Former president Donald Trump has announced his latest in an intermittent series of campaign-style rallies, this time set for 15 January in Arizona – one of the states central to his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Mr Trump’s return to the rally stage will follow an address scheduled for 6 January, the anniversary of the deadly attack on the US Capitol by a horde of his supporters. In his announcement of the speech, he described the insurrection as an “unarmed protest of the rigged election”.
Mr Trump’s public appearances will take place as the panel investigating the insurrection closes in further on him and his allies, a process he has so far failed to halt with numerous court challenges.
The ex-commander in chief has also roused concern, confusion and in some cases fury among supporters with his recent statements celebrating the Covid-19 vaccines developed under his administration.
At a recent speaking event in Texas, he was booed when he told right-wing journalist Bill O’Reilly he had received a booster shot. Later, in an interview with media agitator Candace Owens, he described the shots themselves as “one of the greatest achievements of mankind”, insisting that those who received them were far less likely to develop severe Covid symptoms and that “the ones who get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones who don’t take the vaccine” – though he also opposed mandates for both vaccinations and masks.
Ms Owens, who tried and failed to steer Mr Trump towards an anti-vaccine position, later tried to make sense of the exchange for her own viewers, musing that Mr Trump consumes too much “mainstream media” and is thus unfamiliar with the fringe and discredited theories she and other Trump supporters have pushed.
Less forgiving was extremist radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who told Mr Trump in a Christmas Day message: “You are either completely ignorant about the so called ‘vaccine’ gene therapy that you helped ram through with operation warp speed, or you are one of the most evil men who has ever lived.”
Even as the Omicron variant spreads fast throughout the US and unvaccinated Americans with Covid arrive in strained hospitals in larger numbers, anti-vaccine rhetoric continues to circulate heavily on the right. It remains to be seen if Mr Trump will defend the shots when he once again takes the stage in front of a crowd of supporters.
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