by Bill Boyle
A number of people have asked about my experiences on December 4 when I was part of the White House Media Pool that covered the President’s quick visit to Salt Lake City.
It was a remarkable experience.
I was able to get this access partially because of a mess-up when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited San Juan County in May.
There was a last-minute change in a press conference with the Interior Secretary and some of the press was not notified, including me. I pitched a royal fit at the time and thought that I had sufficiently embarrassed myself. Apparently, it was memorable to others, as I was added to the press pool for Trump’s visit.
The press pool covering the president does just that: cover the president. They did not seem to be interested in understanding the issues related to the Bears Ears. They are just there to cover the spectacle and witness any unexpected events.
I was also struck by the incredible logistics required to host a Presidential visit. There are a million contingencies that need to be considered, including access to health care facilities.
In retrospect, it was naive to think the President could visit the Bears Ears.
A few people suggested that I was a little too enthusiastic in my coverage of the events. I understand that not everyone supports the changes, but it really is a remarkable moment for San Juan County.
I would have gladly traveled to Hawaii last December to cover the initial designation, but no offer was forthcoming from the farthest place in the nation from San Juan County.
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The local media that joined the caravan included a cameraman and reporter (Ben Winslow) from Fox 13 News and myself. The Fox team provided footage for the other local media.
We joined approximately 35 reporters and cameramen who arrived on Air Force One and disembarked off the back of the massive plane.
The President and a few invited guests got off the front of the plane. After being greeted by Governor Gary Herbert and his wife, Trump made a bee-line for supporters along the rope line, including twin brothers from Magna who impersonate Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“I like this kid; I like this,” said the President.
Being a part of the presidential motorcade was remarkable. There were about 20 vehicles in the motorcade, ranging from the heavy duty “beast” limousine carrying the elite at the front to the support vehicles in the back.
There were three media vans – simple 15 passenger vans. After waiting in the bitter cold for more than an hour, it was great to get in a warm van.
The motorcade moved quickly through the city. Many people lined the route, with the majority taking photos, waving, and seeing the spectacle.
There were many signs of support and a number of signs opposing the President. Make America Great Again hats were in abundance, as well as signs that stated “Protect Wild Utah”, “Dump Trump”, “Hatch a Better Plan”, and “Run Mitt Run”. More than a few people, who were obviously very angry, flipped off the motorcade.
The motorcade spent about 30 minutes at Welfare Square of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After standing in the snow for about 15 minutes, the media was shuffled into the room where President Trump and Senator Hatch were meeting with LDS Church leaders, including Henry Eyring and Russel Nelson.
Afterwards, the group toured the welfare facilities of the church, including a Bishops Storehouse.
It was a game of cat and mouse with the media at the Bishops Storehouse.
President Trump was pushing a cart around the storehouse, apparently looking for tuna fish and hearing about the welfare programs of the Church.
Every once in a while, a member of the media would blurt out a question about Orrin Hatch or Mitt Romney. Occasionally, Trump would reply with a quick answer, “He’s a good man; Mitt’s a good man,” or “Yes,” if he wanted Hatch to run for re-election.
The motorcade passed the new Bears Ears mural recently painted on the side of a building on 800 South. Two men stood in front of the mural with wrenches in their hands.
The motorcade arrived after several of the speeches had been given, so I missed the speeches by Commissioner Rebecca Benally and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
There were an army of elected officials on the stand, including Commissioners Benally, Adams and Lyman, along with state and federal officials and a few local residents.
After the speeches and signatures, the motorcade quickly made its way to Air Force One, which left just over two hours after arriving in Salt Lake City.