Trump in Tupelo: A new reporter’s view

New Albany MS Trump in Tupelo
President Donald Trump at Bancorpsouth arena in Tupelo MS, November 1, 2019.
November 2nd, 2019     Government & Politics

Trump in Tupelo

by Phillip Martin



In the brief time that I have been reporting for,  I have been given some opportunities that I otherwise would not have had the chance to experience. One such opportunity was attending the Keep America Great rally with President Trump in Tupelo, on Friday night. I originally had no plans to attend the rally, but after giving it some thought, decided that attending and covering the event would be a good experience. After all, it is not very often that a person has the opportunity to be in the same room with a sitting United States President.

I applied for media credentials roughly two weeks before the rally, with the understanding that these are not usually easy to come by, and I never expected to be cleared. In fact, I had already gotten a ticket from the President’s website with the anticipation of being seated in the nosebleeds.  I was deeply surprised, when I was notified that I had been cleared, and would be in the press area. Again, something that I had yet to experience.

New Albany MS Trump in Tupelo MS

The Trump rally crowd filled all but a very few seats in the Bancorpsouth arena in Tupelo MS.

The media was covering the event well before Friday, as the city of Tupelo gave numerous updates through various outlets with information on parking, where the general public should line up, and what to expect. It was being reported that supporters should show up as early as possible, in order to gain entrance into the event; since more tickets were given out than the arena had the capacity to hold.

Having been cleared for a press pass, I was not concerned with being able to get in to the building, however, I was concerned with parking. Having a disability, the idea of parking blocks away, and having to walk to the event was not something that I wanted to face. I arrived at roughly 2:00 pm. I drove past a large crowd gathered in the front of the building, and then looked at the massive amount of cars already in the lot. As I turned toward the Bancorpsouth Arena, I noticed several law enforcement officers blocking one side of the road. After stopping to speak to one of the officers, I was relieved to learn that there was, in fact, media parking on the other side of the building.

Despite attempting to reach out to someone from President Trump’s press office, I had no idea where to go once I was actually at the arena. No one had told me where to check in, or to whom I was supposed to report. Once in the parking lot, I spotted a local TV news anchor that I recognized, and asked her if she had any information. She knew just as much as I did, so we walked together toward the entrance so we could find out how to get inside.

The process of checking in was simple. I gave my name to the woman at the sign-in table, and she handed me my press badge. I have to say, I always wanted to have one of those…I am not sure why. After being thoroughly scanned and checked for explosives, knives, firearms, and shoe bombs. (One of my shoes looks a little funny due to my disability.) I was shown into the arena and to the press box.

The press area was located in the center of the arena, and sectioned off with a large guard rail. In the back, there were three rows of tables for those of us without TV cameras. Each table was equipped with a power strip for charging laptops and cell phones. After speaking to another member of the media, I learned that there was no WIFI for the press to use. This was a problem for a few of the bloggers there, since their programs needed internet in order to work. I was thankful that I had only brought a digital recorder and a notebook. In my experience, old fashioned works better than the newest technology. One does not need internet access to take notes, and a pen will usually work without being plugged in.

Being seated in the back of the press area, my view of the stage was completely blocked. The front of the press box was occupied by a series of risers. This area was reserved for the members of the media with TV crews. The crews ranged from several local stations, as well as, national news outlets like CNN and NBC. Even though I was there to listen to the rally, rather than film it, I couldn’t help but be frustrated once the event started, because I had absolutely no chance of getting photographs.

Once the crowds began to file in, I watched excited faces as they looked for the best seats they could find. Early in the day, the event staff had told the ushers to be sure to fill the seats closer to the stage first. I can only assume that is because the venue would appear to be full for the TV cameras. One of the things that struck me, was the crowd. I noted a few times that it resembled the crowd of a monster truck rally, rather than a presidential audience. I didn’t expect the crowd to be dressed in suits and ties, but I was a little surprised at some of the things I saw. Most of the crowd was wearing jeans and graphic tee shirts, which speaks to President Trump’s blue collar appeal.

New Albany MS Trump political rally in Tupelo

Trump’s political rally in Tupelo, MS.

At around 5:30, the rally was opened with a word of prayer. The crowd stood and bowed their heads, but it quickly turned into something else. When I was young, I was taught to be respectful and quiet during prayer. With that said, I realized that the crowd might have been taught something else. Every time the speaker mentioned President Trump, the crowd roared to life. It almost seemed like I had walked into the middle of the First Presidential Church of Trump. When Jesus was mentioned, the crowd often fell silent. After the prayer, the national anthem was preformed, and then we all stood and pledged allegiance to the flag…which I couldn’t see. What followed was another hour and a half of random soft rock played over the PA system and more boredom.

When the clock hit 7:00, the crowd grew more and more excited. With the end of each song, the chants of “Trump” and “Trump Train” filled the air. Half an hour later, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” came up next on the arena’s random playlist. Immediately followed by the introduction of the President. I will admit that I have a bad habit of laughing at the most inappropriate times. I could not help myself, as I belly laughed at the idea that the President was introduced after a song about the woes of the country was played.

President Trump took the stage to a thunderous applause, immediately cracking a joke about Tupelo being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. For a moment, I was struck with the feeling of something special. I was standing 100 yards from the President of the United States, even though I could hardly see anything over the sea of cell phones trying to snap pictures and videos. However, when Trump began to speak that feeling quickly disappeared.

President Trump spoke about his administration, and all of the good they had done. He spoke about the stock market closing at an all-time high. He spoke about how the environment had greatly improved, claiming that the air and water had never been cleaner. Then, he spoke about the Democrat party…at great length.

New Albany MS Trump in Tupelo nearly full arena

The Bancorpsouth Arena in Tupelo MS, nearly full of Trump fans.

The President mentioned that the military had just killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and so-called number one terrorist. He spoke about the military, and praised the men and women that had served, and then villainized the media for burying that story. He then approached the topic of impeachment, stating that it was nothing more than a witch hunt from the democrats and the media. At one point, he called out CNN, and even pointed out the fact that they had stopped recording. This did not strike me as very presidential behavior.

New Albany MS Trump in Tupelo from press cage After more muck raking, the President moved on to the topic at hand. The reason for his visit was to drum up support for Tate Reeves, the Republican candidate for Governor. However, he didn’t speak about Reeves very much at all. Instead, he built up Mississippi’s current Governor Phil Bryant. He told the audience how Bryant had lowered the unemployment rate, and had made several other improvements to the state. He concluded by asking for the vote for the Republican ticket, rarely mentioning Reeves by name when it came to Tuesday’s election. When President Trump left the podium, Reeves himself stepped to the podium. Reeves delivered a very short speech asking for support on Tuesday. Shortly after Reeves left the podium, the crowd started to head toward the exit, eager to leave the venue as quickly as possible.

This was an experience that I am glad that I was a part of, However, I left feeling somewhat underwhelmed. I am not an avid Trump fan, however, I do support him. In my opinion, Trump could not have been less presidential. I’m not sure how dignified I expected him to be. He is, after all, the same man that ran a reality TV show for 14 years, and appeared in three different Playboy home entertainment videos.  The entire thing felt like a WWE event, which Trump has also been a part of, rather than a political rally. Despite the frustration from being corralled in an area where I had to struggle to see, and having absolutely no chance of getting photos, I am glad I had the chance to cover the rally. Next time, I might skip the whole press pass thing (still cool) and simply attend the event with the general audience.

Editor’s note: Phillip Martin has very recently begun reporting for, his first such job in the news business. We imagine that few small town reporters get the opportunity to cover a sitting president before they’ve got five stories under their belt. We are happy he was able to be one of the fewMartin, his wife and their eight year old son live in Blue Springs, MS.

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From the Community

Ola Thomas says:

Per your quote-
Trump could not have been less presidential. I’m not sure how dignified I expected him to be.
Unless, you have access to an accredited Standard , which, defines the criteria to measure – objective evidence for making an assessment of
of acceptable Presidential behavior, I
will use my own subjective criteria and say
he is very justified in his direct non sugar coated
responses the the 3 years of lies from fake news and Dems.. He is very Presidential.
Google his 289 accomplishments since taking office- kinda interesting.

Deanie Calhoon says:

I was there, and I couldn’t disagree with you more. Do you work for CNN? It was a great event and evidently everyone had a great time with the exception of you and those that are employed by fake news outlets. The music was awesome, and the speeches were positive, truthful and uplifting! The very pics included with your article clearly debunk two of your false narratives. How could you miss the flag??? It literally took up the entire back wall. Ray Charles couldn’t have missed it, so I’m not sure how you did. Also, you were obviously making fun of the way people were dressed, but when you look at the pics you can see that most are wearing appropriate attire for a “rally”! Many had to stand in line for hours and were dressed for comfort. Remember, not all of us had a press pass so that we could skip the long lines for the ill afforded opportunity to spread our biased opinions. ( Insert heavy eye roll emoji! 🙄🙄🙄 ) Friendly reminder, it was a political rally not a sit down dinner. Try spreading a little sunshine and looking for the silver lining next time. A positive attitude will help “keep America great”! Perhaps you would have more fun covering Biden. All 12 people seemed to enjoy his last outing. 😉

Phil Kraft says:

The tragedy of Trump and Trumpism is that those who support him the most are the ones that his policies hurt the most ! His positions on issues ranging from taxes , public education , the environment, war and peace, and foolhardy trade wars hurt the people that make up his base the most. He always entertains and never inspires ! He calls people “ human scum “ and “ retarded “ and folks yell and cheer ! He brags on himself and lies with ease ! Honest , thoughtful people know he’s a fraud and a phony yet they embrace him with enthusiasm – the whole spectacle is a tragedy and the young reporter was wise enough to see it and courageous enough to report it !

Ted says:

The editors should be ashamed — sending a young reporter to a CULT meeting on his first assignment. What took place in Tupelo on Friday was a CULT of ignorance — if ignorance is truly Bliss there was a bunch of happy people at the Donald J Trump rally ! “Monster Truck “rallies can be entertaining , and Donald Trump would of course claim to have the Biggest basest Truck in the history of the combustion engine !! This was no Monster Truck rally it was a Cult ! Cults are misguided and dangerous ! Send your reporters to a few garden club meetings and Boy Scout Halls before you send them to cover this frightening nonsense ! “ keep America great !” Dump Trump !

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