In a Fox News interview, the anchor Harris Faulkner asked President Donald Trump what he thinks protesters are demonstrating against following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.
Trump suggested that people are protesting "for different reasons," adding, "a lot of them really were there because they're following the crowd."
The president acknowledged that Floyd's death in police custody was "a terrible thing," but later said that "we have to cherish them and take care of" police officers and that the officer who killed Floyd was "a bad apple."
Scroll down to read Trump's full response.
In a Fox News interview with Harris Faulkner, President Donald Trump was asked what he thinks protesters across the country are demonstrating against following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.
Floyd was a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd said he couldn't breathe and begged for air. Shortly before he died, Floyd called for his late mother.
Faulkner referenced Floyd's last moments in her interview with Trump, saying they were "a heart punch."
"So I'm curious, from you, what do you think the protesters — not the rioters and the looters, we're intelligent enough to know the difference in our culture, right? — what do you think they [protesters] want?" Faulkner asked the president. "What do you think they need, right now, from you?"
Here was Trump's answer, verbatim:
"Protesters for different reasons. You're protesting also because, you know, they just didn't know. I've watch — I watched very closely. Why are you here? They really weren't able to say, but they were there for a reason, perhaps.
"But a lot of them really were there because they're following the crowd. A lot of them were there because what we witnessed was a terrible thing. What we saw was a terrible thing. And we've seen it over the years. We haven't, you know, this was one horrible example, but you've seen other terrible examples. You know that better than anybody who would know it. And I know it. I've seen it, too. I've seen it before I was president. I've seen it. I think it's a shame. I think it's a disgrace. And it's got to stop.
"At the same time, you also know that we have incredible people in law enforcement that we have to cherish them and take care of them. And we can't let something like this, we have a bad apple go out and, you know, destroy the image of a whole of millions of people that take really good care of us. And then you have a movement where they say, let's not have a police department. And you say, where are these people coming from?"
Floyd's death was the latest in a long list of instances in which a white police officer was videotaped using excessive force against an unarmed Black man following an arrest.
The event sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality as demonstrations continue to rage in more than 300 US cities.
The protests have been largely peaceful, though some have devolved into chaos after law enforcement officials used tear gas, flash grenades, and other items to dispel crowds and were videotaped using batons against peaceful protesters if they were on the streets past curfew.
Trump and his allies have blamed the far-left group antifa for sparking the violence, but a closer examination of court records, media reports, and social media posts shows no evidence of a coordinated antifa effort to infiltrate the protests.
The president has not yet made a public statement condemning police brutality and racism in the wake of Floyd's death. He also called on law enforcement officials and state governors to "dominate" protesters with "overwhelming force."
Last week, Trump drew sharp backlash when he threatened to send the military into Minneapolis to quell demonstrations and quoted a racist police chief from the 1960s in a tweet that Twitter later flagged for glorifying violence.
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