President Trump credited himself on Wednesday for bringing attention to the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States after he first scheduled a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., that day, then moved it to a day later after objections from African-Americans.
“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”
Trump acknowledged in the interview that he was also one of the people who had never heard of Juneteenth, which is this Friday, until quite recently, when he was informed about the significance of the date from a Secret Service agent who is Black.
As criticism grew over the decision to hold the rally on June 19 in a city where a white mob attacked and murdered hundreds of Black residents in 1921, Trump told the Journal that he asked people at the White House if they had ever heard about Juneteenth. None had.
But during the interview, the president was also unaware that the White House had issued statements commemorating the holiday in each of the years he has been in office. Informed by an aide of those prior statements as he spoke with the Journal, the president expressed surprise.
“Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” Trump said, according to the paper. “OK, OK. Good.”
Last week, Trump announced he was pushing back the date of his Tulsa rally by one day.
...of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents. I have therefore decided to move our rally to Saturday, June 20th, in order to honor their requests...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2020
In an interview last week with Fox News host Harris Faulkner, Trump was asked whether he had initially chosen June 19 to send a message of some sort.
“No, but I know exactly what you’re going to say,” Trump replied.
“Well, I’m just asking,” Faulkner interjected. “I’ve not got anything to say.”
“Think about it as a celebration,” Trump continued. “My rally’s a celebration. ... In the history of politics, I think I can say, there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do. I go and I just say, give me the biggest stadium and we fill it up every time. We’ve never had a vacant seat.”
The controversy over Trump’s rally comes as protests continue over police killings of Black civilians and a national debate over Civil War monuments.
Trump told the Journal that he opposed renaming 10 Army bases around the country named after Confederate generals, saying the initial rationale for elevating the memory of those who fought against the Union was to unite the country after the Civil War.
“And now you’re going to take them off? You’re going to bring people apart,” he said.
During his interview with Faulkner, who is Black, Trump reprised his claim that he had been the best president for African-Americans, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation that led to the freeing of the slaves.
“I think I’ve done more for the Black community than any other president, and let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, cause he did good although it’s always questionable, you known, in other words, the end result —”
“Well, we are free, Mr. President,” Faulkner responded.
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