Trump doubles down on divisive messaging in speech to honor Independence Day
President Donald Trump saluted America on the Fourth of July with remarks at the White House Saturday that echoed the divisive messaging he used to stoke culture wars in a fiery speech at Mount Rushmore the night before.
The President spoke about defeating the “radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters,” and reiterated his strong stance on protecting monuments and statues some say are symbols of racial oppression.
“Our past is not a burden to be cast away,” Trump said at the White House’s “Salute to America” event on the South Lawn.
The President spoke more about the coronavirus Saturday than he did the night before in South Dakota, but he used mention of the virus to underscore his divisive message. “China must be held accountable” for the virus, he said, and again claimed that a vaccine will be available before the end of the year.
Despite a rise in coronavirus cases across the United States, many attendees seen at the White House’s event were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks ahead of the President’s remarks, CNN observed.
The Washington, DC, celebration did not appear to be following US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines concerning gatherings despite deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere telling CNN this week that the White House would enforce social distancing.
CNN has asked the White House whether guests are being tested or having temperatures checked but has yet to receive a response. The White House stopped temperature checks of all those entering the White House grounds weeks ago. Reporters at Saturday’s event have not been tested or received a temperature check.
Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, who is attending the White House’s Fourth of July event, declined to comment on the event and the lack of social distancing.
“Good question, but let me just see,” Giroir, the assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services, said when asked if the White House event was setting a good example for other Americans. “I’m reserving judgment.”
He noted: “My wife and I are both wearing a mask.”
Trump’s remarks at the White House come a day after he delivered a deeply divisive speech in South Dakota Friday night aimed at stoking the culture wars in America, warning, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”
It was the kind of dark message the President has turned to often in recent weeks to incite his most loyal supporters as he attempts to ignore a pandemic in the face of skyrocketing coronavirus cases. There was no social distancing at the Mount Rushmore event, especially with chairs at the top of the amphitheater tied together with zip ties. The President mentioned the virus just once in his Friday speech, at the very top of his remarks, thanking those working to fight it.
Trump’s Saturday remarks contrasted those of former Vice President Joe Biden who called on Americans to “commit to finally fulfill” America’s founding principle that “all men are created equal.”
“We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed a full share of American dream,” Biden says in the video. “We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.”
Biden later tweeted that “one of the most patriotic things you can do is wear a mask” during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden campaign on Saturday also responded to Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech by saying the United States is “suffering” as a result of having a “divisive” president who doesn’t “give a damn about anything but his own gain.”
“Our whole country is suffering through the excruciating costs of having a negligent, divisive president who doesn’t give a damn about anything but his own gain – not the sick, not the jobless, not our constitution, and not our troops in harm’s way,” campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement of Trump. “Even as the outbreak ramps up, he’s admitted to ordering that the federal testing response be watered down.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Betsy Klein, Kate Bennett and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.