Emily Goodin, Daily Mail, July 14, 2020
President Donald Trump brushed off a question Tuesday about why more black people are dying at the hands of police, arguing ‘so are white people.’
‘So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people,’ he responded during an interview at the White House on Tuesday. ‘More people, by the way. More white people.’
Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, The Washington Post found in July study of five years of police shootings, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate.
While black Americans account for less than 13 per cent of the U.S. population, they are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.
The president also defended the flying of the Confederate flag as ‘freedom of speech’ in his interview with CBS News but wouldn’t say if he was comfortable having the flag – which many see as a racist symbol – flown at his rallies.
‘You know, it depends on what your definition is. But I am comfortable with freedom of speech. It’s very simple,’ he said.
Herridge asked Trump if he understood ‘why the flag is a painful symbol for many people because it’s a reminder of slavery.’
‘Well, people love it and I don’t view — I know people that like the Confederate flag and they’re not thinking about slavery. I look at NASCAR — you go to NASCAR, you had those flags all over the place. They stopped it,’ Trump said, referring to the decision by NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag from its events.
‘I just think it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about. It’s freedom of speech,’ he added.
The Trump administration was criticized in its handling of the protests that sprang up around the country in the wake of Floyd’s death.
It began when protesters were cleared from Lafayette Park across from the White House so the president could walk to St. John’s church for a photo-op holding the bible. And it continued into a ‘culture war’ as Trump blasted demonstrators for tearing down statues with ties to the Confederacy and said he would not change the names of military bases named after Confederate soldiers.
And Americans gave Trump low approval numbers in polls in his handling of race relations.
A Pew poll out last week found 67 per cent disapprove of ‘the way Donald Trump is handling race relations’ amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Just 32 per cent of respondents say they approve of Trump’s handling of race relations.
‘We are in a culture war,’ President Trump told RealClearPolitics in an interview last week.
And, he warned, losing that war could cost the Republican Party the election.
‘If the Republicans don’t toughen up and get smart and get strong and protect our heritage and protect our country,’ he said, ‘I think they’re going to have a very tough election.’
In the interview, the president rejected talk he was self-sabotaging a second term.
‘I want it with all my breath,’ he said, ‘with every ounce of what I represent.’
The president has blasted protesters who have taken down statues that have ties to Confederate officials. Some states – such as Virginia – also are removing statues with ties to the Confederacy.
And, to counter that, the White House and the Trump campaign are discussing having statues at the president’s campaign rallies, ABC News reported.
It’s also unclear who the statues would be of but a source told the network one idea was for ‘America’s Founding Fathers.’
No final decision has been made.
Trump’s words contradict those of White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who said at her briefing last Monday that concerns about the monuments was not part of a ‘culture war.’
‘This vision is not a culture war, as the media seeks to falsely proclaim; it’s an embrace of our American family, our values, our freedom, and our future,’ she said.
President Trump has leaned into the culture war theme, including the preservation of Confederate monuments, which have come under assault in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the subsequent ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, and the renaming of military bases called after Confederate officers.
He’s also said the decision to fly the Confederate flag, seen by many as a racist symbol, is one of ‘freedom of speech’ after lashing out at NASCAR for banning it from its racing events.
‘I view it as freedom of speech,’ he told NexStarDC’s Jessi Turnure in an interview last Tuesday. ‘It’s freedom of speech. You do what you do. It’s freedom of speech. And NASCAR can do whatever they want and they’ve chosen to go a certain way and other people chose to go a different route. But it’s freedom of speech.’
The White House has argued that if military bases are renamed and statues are removed, it will be a slippery slope to figures like George Washington being ‘erased.’ Washington was a slave-owner, as was Thomas Jefferson.
Trump addressed these themes during his speech on July 3rd at Mount Rushmore, with the faces of Washington and Jefferson on the sculpture behind him.
‘Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,’ he said.
‘Many of these people have no idea why they’re doing this, but some know exactly what they’re doing,’ he continued.
‘They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive,’ he said.
‘But no, the American people are strong and proud and they will not allow our country and all of its values, history and culture to be taken from them,’ he said, raising his voice.
The president also took on ‘cancel culture,’ calling it the ‘very definition of totalitarianism.’
He called the left’s version of history a ‘a web of lies.’
And he talked about each of the presidents who appeared on Mount Rushmore over his head: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
‘No movement that seeks to dismantle these treasured American legacies can possibly have a love of America at its heart’ he said.
Black Lives Matter protesters have focused on tearing down statues, mainly of Confederate figures, because of their links to white supremacy.
The president has latched on to the destructive part of the movement – and liberals’ calls to ‘defund the police’ – to craft a message palatable to his predominantly white base.
Trump also announced he was creating a new monument, called the ‘national garden of American heroes,’ which he described as a ‘vast outdoor park that will features the statues of the greatest Americans who ever lived.’
And the president vowed to deploy federal law enforcement ‘to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters and prosecute offenders to the furthest extent of the law.’
He promised Mount Rushmore, which loomed above him – and would serve as a backdrop for fireworks after his speech – would never be touched.