After deciding on one of the nation’s most revered memorials as the setting for Fox News’ virtual town hall with President Trump on Sunday, White House aides solicited the help of Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to issue a special directive allowing them to use the Lincoln Memorial for the televised event, The New York Times reports. The action by Bernhardt, who heads the agency overseeing all national parks and memorials, came under intense criticism by Trump opponents who argue that the town hall was essentially a political event. Democrats have long been critical of Bernhardt, who has been accused of a number of ethical conflicts.
During the televised town hall, which drew some 4 million viewers, Trump feigned confusion about whose idea it was to host the town hall at the base of the iconic Daniel Chester sculpture of the 16th president. “And I did say this would be nice, but I thought it was your choice, not ours?” Trump responded to Fox News moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. A Fox News spokeswoman reportedly noted Baier’s remarks during the town hall that the venue had been Trump’s choice. The White House, however, countered that it was a “joint decision.” Trump acknowledged during the interview that the coronavirus death toll in the United States has the potential to hit the 100,000 mark, effectively doubling his previous projection two weeks ago.