The Republican Jewish Coalition announced on Wednesday that it will postpone its annual conference, which was supposed to take place this weekend and include an appearance by President Donald Trump, because of the coronavirus. Earlier this week, the organization still insisted that Trump will speak at the gathering in Las Vegas.
"In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, in consultation with the White House and our outside experts, we have regretfully decided to postpone the RJC annual meeting," the organization said in a statement released shortly after President Trump's live televised statement. The organization said that it will "look for dates in the near future when we can reschedule."
Trump was scheduled to speak at the event, which was supposed to take place at a hotel owned by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, one of the president's most important donors. Adelson has given hundreds of millions of dollars to campaigns supporting Republican politicians over the past decade. He was expected to attend the event and meet the president there.
Up until today, the Trump administration's approach to COVID-19 was to try and project "business as usual", and senior members of the administration, including Trump himself, tried to minimize the implications of the virus and compare it to a regular flu outbreak. Trump's most vocal supporters in the right-wing media also described the virus as a "hoax" and a "conspiracy" meant to hurt the president.
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As part of this line, Trump refused earlier this week to change his plans to attend the Las Vegas gathering. The RJC anounced on Sunday that there was no change in plans, despite the outbreak of the virus. Things changed only today, as the financial markets crashed for the second time this week, and the number of Americans infected by the virus continued to grow. That's what led the White House to cancel Trump's appearance at the event, leading the RJC to finally postpone it.
Two recent political gatherings in Washington that featured high-ranking speakers from the Trump administration were later found to have been attended by people who were diagnosed with the virus. At least five people who attended the AIPAC policy conference last week have been tested positive for COVID-19, and at least one person who attended the right-wing CPAC conference has been diagnosed with it.