Customers at Trump International Hotel and Tower are confused as to why they have missed their chance to see headliner R. Kelly.
When The New York Times’ Gabriel Sherman asked two women visiting Las Vegas from Illinois, Victoria Rhodes and her friend Rachel Erickson, why they weren’t attending their first major presidential speech since November 2016, they didn’t have a clear answer.
“I have no idea what is going on here,” Rhodes told Sherman. “There are people milling around and I don’t know who they are.”
The Times also spoke to a woman traveling from Utah, who booked a hotel room for herself and three other people on February 14 and paid a two-night minimum on the “Sunday Only” package. It was to have included hotel accommodations, two tickets to the speakers’ forum and transportation to and from a bus stop close to the venue. She was surprised to learn that her reservation had been canceled.
“I think they should refund me for the Saturday night,” said Christina Lewallen. “Why should I pay that for an event that I don’t know is going to take place?”
Photograph of The New York Times courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images
In September, when Trump announced that he would be appearing at the Rally for Brett Kavanaugh in Mississippi, the government shutdown had been ongoing for more than a month and many Americans were grappling with uncertainty over what would be happening the next day. This month, protesters have expressed their displeasure with the president during speeches at Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremonies. Some are also upset with Trump’s plans to appear at the Rally for Greg Gianforte, a Republican congressman who assaulted a reporter, in Montana on Monday.
“He has a chance to influence the outcome of a race where the frontrunner got in trouble after assaulting a reporter,” said Veronica Harnestad of Spokane, who paid $500 for a room for herself and seven friends at the Hill Country Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. “It’s his only real shot at making a statement that he isn’t the person we’ve become used to.”
Their timing, their frustration, their patience — it seems like it’s a tough line to straddle.
“It’s going to be very, very unfortunate if the largest event of his presidency is canceled due to the actions of one person,” said Peter von Kessler, who arrived at the hotel from Vancouver at 2:30 p.m. on February 16. “It means that there is a link between himself and violence — and violence is only doing him good.”
But President Trump is probably much better at marketing than R. Kelly is at selling records, or the speakers’ forum in question for that matter. Despite being widely condemned by the movement and their fans, Kelly’s music sales still dwarf the 15,000 attendees he attracted for his September appearance in Mississippi. By comparison, Trump’s appearance there was broadcast on Fox News, and the event was marked by demonstrators — like the one in Washington, D.C., last year.
Allan Smith of Santa Barbara attended the rally in Mississippi in September.
“It’s been a rough patch for him, and it’s not his show,” Smith said of Trump’s relationship with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “But he’s his own person and he can do what he wants. I wish he would do better.”
A woman walks by a screen at the rally for Brett Kavanaugh in Mississippi, where President Trump was initially scheduled to appear but cancelled. (Reuters/Jonathan Bachman)
Kim Wade was among the thousands at the Mississippi rally.
“As far as I’m concerned, this country is fixated on Trump and anyone who works for him can’t be taken seriously,” Wade said. “He is not the president. He is more dangerous than the rest of them put together, more dangerous to our country’s future, and more dangerous to the people who are coming from immigrant communities.”
But there’s an audience that likes it when the president lets loose.
“Trump is playing up, and the crowd likes it,” said Brenda Kruger, a native of Montreal who decided to pay $200 for a room in Las Vegas to “tune in, close their eyes and listen to a great performance.”