Fresh off an astonishingly incendiary speech at Mount Rushmore on Friday night, President Trump picked up where he left off on Saturday and took aim at the media—bizarrely claiming that journalists who call out racism somehow “slander” the entire country and all U.S. military veterans.
“To those in the media, who falsely and consistently label their opponents as racists, who condemn patriotic citizens...When you level these false charges, you not only slander me, you not only slander the American people, but you slander generations of heroes who gave their lives for America,” he told the crowd gathered for the White House’s Salute to America celebration.
Trump used most of his speech to dismiss the widespread anti-racism protests across the country as a leftist plot aimed at destroying the country, echoing his comments from a night earlier, when he rallied supporters against those taking part in the protests, who he described as “evil.” Protesters have torn down statues of Confederate leaders, Christopher Columbus, and other figures known for stoking racial oppression, acts Trump vehemently opposes.
While he did not name names on Saturday, Trump repeatedly claimed protesters were seeking to erase the legacy of “great heroes.”
“We will not throw away our heroes. We will honor them, and we will prove worthy of their sacrifice,” he said.
But he seemed to save most of his ire for the journalists reporting on the current reckoning over the country's history of racism.
By leveling the “false” accusation of racism, he said, “You slander people much braver and principled than you. You're slandering the young man who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. And those who perished fighting for freedom in the Civil War. You slander them.”
He did not elaborate on which accusation in particular was false, who it was made against, or if he was flat-out dismissing the existence of racism in general.
“We will not let the legacy of these heroes be tarnished by you. ... The patriots who built our country were not villains,” he said.
He also gave details of his newly announced garden of monuments, enumerating figures whose statues would be erected there. He said George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom owned slaves, had been “unfairly mistreated” in the recent reframing of their legacies.
In other parts of his speech, Trump said the United States had done well in combatting the coronavirus and was “close to extinguishing” it despite cases increasing at record-high rates across the country. He made no mention of the nearly 130,000 victims who have succumbed to the virus.