President Trump participated in what was supposed to be an “African-American History Month listening session” at the White House on Wednesday. But at least initially Trump did most of the talking.
First, Trump rehashed his complaint over a reporter who had apparently made a mistake reporting that the bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office on the day of his inauguration.
“You all read about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and it turned out that it was fake news,” Trump said at the top of the meeting, which was attended by roughly 20 civil rights and religious leaders and black members of the Trump administration. “Fake news. The statue is cherished. It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln. And we have Jefferson. And we have Dr. Martin Luther King. … But they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched.”
Time magazine’s Zeke Miller reported on Twitter that the bust of King was missing from the Oval Office, but he sent out a correction minutes later, explaining the bust had apparently been obscured by a Secret Service agent. Miller then apologized both to his colleagues and directly to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who accepted it. But later, while railing against the media, Spicer suggested that the reporter ought to apologize to Trump too.
“I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is,” Trump continued. “Very unfortunate.”
The president then said he was proud of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, where visitors can learn about King and other historical black figures.
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said. Douglass was a 19th-century African-American abolitionist, writer and orator who died in 1895.
“Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today,” the president continued. “Big impact.”
Trump thanked CNN contributor Paris Dennard, who was at the meeting, for defending him on cable television.
“Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community,” Trump said. “He’s all by himself. Seven people and Paris. I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much. I don’t like watching fake news.”
“A lot of the media is actually the opposition party,” Trump added. “They’re so, uh, biased. It’s a disgrace. Some of the media is fantastic and fair. So much of the media is opposition party, knowingly saying incorrect things. It’s a very sad situation. But we seem to be doing well. … We won, so maybe they don’t have the influence they think.”
During a media briefing later in the day, Yahoo News asked White House spokesman Sean Spicer for clarity about what Trump meant about Douglass’ contributions becoming more recognized.
“I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made,” Spicer replied. “And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
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