The US Republican Party on Monday officially nominated president Donald Trump to run for re-election in November, when he will take on Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
On the first night of the four-day convention, the party showcased its diversity, but took a hard stance against protesters calling for racial equality, with former UN ambassador Nikki Haley denying racism exists in the US.
With recent polling showing Mr Biden as the preferred candidate for president, Republican speakers throughout the night took aim at the Democratic leader, painting a dark portrait of the former vice president and promoting falsehoods about his record as a politician. Despite Mr Biden campaigning as a centrist, Republicans warned their supporters of his “socialist” policies.
The night featured many fiery speeches that would be best suited to a large audience, but instead echoed through an empty auditorium as the party struggled to adjust its tone during a campaign that is being forced online due to the pandemic.
Donald Trump defends his record
President Trump made two appearances during Monday’s convention to defend his tenure in the White House.
He kicked off the convention by appearing alongside essential workers, including healthcare professionals, who championed the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
Democrats have pinned much of their campaign on attacking Mr Trump’s response to the crisis, with America leading the world in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
When the virus first emerged in the US in February, Mr Trump was slow to take action and referred to the disease as a hoax. He later refused to wear a mask, against epidemiologists’ advice, despite both Republicans and Democrats urging him to do so.
In his second appearance of the night, Mr Trump was flanked by former hostages who were freed during his administration.
The president boasted of his negotiation skills and said he was still working to free others detained abroad.
US Navy veteran Michael White, who was sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison, used the segment to take aim at Iran’s “injustice system”, calling it an “oppressive, extortionist, terrorist regime”.
Critics of the president pointed out that negotiations to bring American Mustafa Kassem home from Egypt failed.
Before he was elected president, Mr Trump had also attacked deceased senator John McCain’s respected record of wartime service.
“He’s not a war hero,” Mr Trump said in 2015. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
Gun rights activists were given the spotlight on Monday night, as the president looked to retain his voter base, rather than appeal to undecided voters.
The McCloskey family made news earlier this summer for waving their guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched past the couple’s St Louis home during a rally in June . The couple, who were charged over the incident, defended their “God-given right” to protect themselves and their property at Monday’s Republican convention.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey stoked fears that the Democrats “would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighbourhoods”.
The couple boosted the Trump campaign’s “law and order” theme, which paints Black Lives Matter protesters as violent rioters.
This message was echoed by Andrew Pollack, the father of a pupil killed during the Parkland high school shooting. He said the “safety of your kids depends” on President Trump winning.
Last August, when 53 Americans were killed in mass shootings, the president said he was prepared to impose stricter gun laws. But after months of deliberating proposals, he abandoned the idea when advisors told him it would divide his voter base, the Washington Post reported.
Republicans on Monday showcased the diversity within their party, while simultaneously taking a hard line against Black Lives Matter activists.
Black Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina gave the closing address on the convention’s first night, attacking the Democratic candidate for not doing enough to support minority communities.
“Joe Biden said if a black man didn’t vote for him, he wasn’t truly black. Joe Biden said black people are a monolithic community,” Mr Scott said.
Mr Biden has historically fared well with black voters. During the Democratic primaries he received two-thirds of the black vote in South Carolina, which propelled him to his first victory in the contest for the Democratic nomination.
Former ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, also made the case for Mr Trump by sharing her personal story.
She noted her father wore a turban and her mother a sari. “I was a brown girl in a black and white world,” Ms Haley said.
“My mom built a successful business. My dad taught [for] 30 years at a historically black college. And the people of South Carolina chose me as their first minority and first female governor.”
“America is not a racist country,” she said.
Both Mr Scott and Ms Haley are reportedly being primed to run for higher office in the future.