“Well, this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together,” President Donald Trump said.
To kick off Black History Month, Trump hosted a “listening session” on Wednesday for his African American supporters and administration members including Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Omarosa Manigault, who focuses on public engagement for the White House.
The day began with a breakfast event that was open to the media, where Trump shared limited knowledge of Black history. His opening remarks focused on slamming the media and talking about the presidential election and “inner cities.”
Smithsonian Museum and Frederick Douglass
“I am very proud now that we have a museum where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things,” Trump said. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more Black Americans who made America what it is today. A big impact. I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more.”
The museum Trump refers to is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which opened in September. Last month the president was scheduled to visit the museum in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the trip was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts, senior level transition sources said.
“Douglass, I think, would have championed the use of cell-phone photography as a tool for social reform,” Harvard Professor John Stauffer told DiversityInc.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), an influential figure in American history, escaped slavery and became a leading abolitionist, formative writer, stirring orator, statesman, vice presidential candidate and photography theorist. Historically, he has been recognized for his impact on the United States.
During a press conference following the breakfast, a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer what the president meant regarding his comment on Douglass.
Spicer said, “I think he wants to highlight the contributions he has made. And I think through a lot of the actions and statements he’s going to make, I think that the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”
Spicer’s answer makes it unclear whether or not he knows that Douglass passed away many, many years ago.
Fake News and Chicago
Trump rehashed his grievances over a report that erroneously said a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the White House Oval Office. It was a mistake that was swiftly corrected but caused a stir on social media. He then mentioned media outlets he considers “fake.”
“I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see as much. I don’t like watching fake news. So — but Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you,” Trump said at the breakfast.
He also stated, “Chicago is totally out of control.”
On the morning of January 23, the Chicago Tribune released the latest statistics on crime in the city. But it wasn’t until that evening after Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor” aired a segment called “Chaos in Chicago” reiterating the Tribune’s findings that Trump publicly made mention of the statistics on Twitter.
He tweeted, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
“I will send in the Feds” was in direct response to O’Reilly’s statement on the show:
“You know what else President Trump can do?” O’Reilly said. “He can send in the National Guard. He can put the guard in there. The governor won’t.”
Fox News has a history of bias in reporting. In July, O’Reilly said that slavery wasn’t really that bad for some slaves, particularly those involved in building the White House, who “were well-fed and had decent lodgings.” His assessment was in response to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech during the Democratic National Convention.
In October Fox’s Sean Hannity on his nationally syndicated radio talk show “The Sean Hannity Show” said that former President Barack Obama and his family might want to go back to Africa if Trump were to win the election. Hannity said he would charter a plane for the trip.
Fox News also has a legacy of sexism. The company has reached a financial settlement with former host Juliet Huddy, who claimed O’Reilly and Fox News co-President Jack Abernethy sexually harassed her.
At the breakfast, Trump thanked those present who helped his campaign.
“This is a great group,” he said. “This is a group that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lot. If you remember, I wasn’t going to do well with the African American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting — I won’t go into details — but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we’re going to take that to new levels.”
Trump inferred that his talk about the “inner cities” resulted in him getting more of the Black vote than previous Republican candidates. Only 8 percent of Blacks voted for Trump in the presidential election. However, according to Pew Research Center, “Trump fared little better among Blacks and Hispanics than Romney did four years ago.”
But many consider the president’s correlation of African Americans with “inner cities” disparaging.
Read Full Transcript
Full transcript of President Donald Trump’s Black History Month speech