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White House is accused of putting reporters at risk with close Rose Garden seating

The White House was accused of putting reporters' health at risk when it violated social distancing guidelines by arranging chairs too closely together at President Donald Trump's event in the Rose Garden on Friday.

The seats were about a foot apart when reporters came in to sit down. But the original set up showed the chairs were separated further apart, in line with social distancing guidelines put in place to help contain the coronavirus.

News crews had gone out to the Rose Garden to set up their cameras. They took photos of the area and left. When journalists were brought back outside later for the event's start, White House staff had moved the folding chairs closer together.

BEFORE: The original set up for President Donald Trump's event in the Rose Garden on Friday showed folding chairs for reporters were at least six feet apart in accordance with social distancing guidelines

AFTER: When reporters came to take their seats for the event, the folding chairs had been moved closer together by White House staff, who put them about a foot apart

President Donald Trump, who refused to answer questions at the event billed as a 'press conference,' told reporters 'it looks much better' when they were seated a little more than a foot apart

ABC's Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, accused the administration of putting journalists' health at risk to use them as a 'prop.'

'The health of the press corps should not be put in jeopardy because the White House wants reporters to be a prop for a 'news conference' where the president refused to answer any questions,' Karl said in a statement. 

'The chairs were initially positioned in a way that was consistent with social distancing guidelines but were moved closer together by White House staff shortly before the event started,' he noted.

'When we asked for an explanation, the White House press office told us the decision to move the chairs close together was made because 'It looks better,'' Karl added.

The new set up had reporters seated about a foot apart from one another. Social distancing guidelines recommend at least six feet.  

'It was my decision. It looks better,' deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere told DailyMail.com in a statement. 'I would remind you that those in the pool are tested, everyone is temperature checked, and asked if they have had symptoms.'

ABC's Jonathan Karl, president of White House Correspondents' Association, accused White House of putting journalists' health at risk to use them as 'prop'

Most reporters at the event also wore face masks. 

Statement from White House Correspondents' Association

Today the White House press office positioned seating for the President's Rose Garden 'news conference' in a way that violated the federal government's guidelines on social distancing and needlessly put reporters health at risk.

The chairs were initially positioned in a way that was consistent with social distancing guidelines but were moved closer together by White House staff shortly before the event started.

When we asked for an explanation, the White House press office told us the decision to move the chairs close together was made because 'It looks better.'

The health of the press corps should not be put in jeopardy because the White House wants reporters to be a prop for a 'news conference' where the president refused to answer any questions.

Jonathan Karl, President, White House Correspondents' Association

Even President Trump noticed how much closer together journalists were seat and said 'it looks much better.' 

'I noticed you're starting to get much closer together,' he said. 'It looks much better and let's say, not all the way there yet, but you'll be there soon.' 

President Trump has pushed states to reopen quickly and announced he would not give his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte because North Carolina's governor could not guarantee him restrictions on crowd size would be lifted in time.

The Republican Party is now looking at cities in states further along in the opening process for Trump to have his 'celebration,' which would allow for large, cheering crowds of people. 

The White House Correspondent Association has put a rotation in place to limit the number of news outlets that spend the day at the White House. That decreases the number of people in the crowded White House press room in order to help stop the spread of virus.

Members of the media have their temperature checked before entering the complex, as do all staff and visitors. Some reporters - who make up the small, rotating 'pool' of reporters who closely cover the president each day - are tested for the coronavirus. Senior White House staff are tested daily too.   

The Rose Garden event was listed on the president's schedule as a 'news conference' but Trump took no questions. 

He spent nearly 45 minutes sprouting forth on an array of topics and signed into law the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020.

The president took a victory lap on the 13 per cent unemployment rate - some analyst feared it would be as high as 20 per cent - and went off on multiple tangents as his advisers sweat it out around him on the sunny, 81 degree day.

Trump criticized China, claimed a coronavirus vaccine was in sight, compared the Green New Deal to 'baby talk,' slammed governors that continued to keep their states locked down, and claimed his poll numbers are 'looking really good.' 

He also joked he was going to buy an RV and drive around the country with first lady Melania Trump, called the National Guard 'fantastic,' and praised the Secret Service.

The president appeared unaffected by the heat, even as small business administrator Jovita Carranza and economic adviser Larry Kudlow could be seen repeatedly dabbing their faces. 

'I'll be brief as I can I know it's pretty darn hot,' Kudlow said when Trump had finally relinquished the podium. At one point, an aide brought Kudlow a bottle of water as the president spoke so the 72-year-old economic adviser could have a sip. 

Paper cups of water were passed around later too. And staff brought water bottles out to the press.  

Reporters were seated about a foot apart at Friday's event

President Donald Trump shushes reporters who tried to ask him questions at the event the White House billed as a 'press conference'

An aide brought out cups of water to some of Trump's advisers, who had stood behind him for his 45 minute monologue in the hot sun

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow wipes away sweat as President Trump speaks; it was 81 degrees in the Rose Garden

Journalists attempted to question the president when he stopped talking to sign the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020 into law. The legislation extended the amount of time small businesses could use the loans given to them by the federal government as part as a coronavirus relief package.

'I'd like to sign this bill,' Trump said when asked about race relations in the county.

The president has come under fire for his handling of the protests that have sprung up around the country in the wake of George Floyd's death. 

He did give a short answer to the question, saying a 'strong economy' would make it all better before returning to the signing at hand.

'Excuse me I’d like to sign this bill,' he said when more questions were asked.  

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