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Trump Defends Choice of Date for Rally

Juneteenth event will be a 'celebration,' he says
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2020 12:36 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Trump resumes his political rallies next week, with Tulsa the first city on the list. The selection continues to generate controversy because the rally takes place on June 19, and Juneteenth is the annual celebration of the end of slavery. Given the current tensions on race over the George Floyd killing, and given the Oklahoma city's own troubled history on civil rights, critics are calling the choice insensitive. Trump, though, is defending it. Coverage:

  • Trump: In an interview, Harris Faulkner of Fox News asked Trump if the date was intentional. "No, but I know exactly what you're going to say," said the president, per the Hill. Faulkner, who's black, said she was merely asking a question, and Trump responded: "Think about it as a celebration. They're always a celebration. In the history of politics, I think I can say there's never been any group or any person that's had rallies like I do.”
  • Critics: A tweet from Sen. Kamala Harris, a front-runner to be Joe Biden's running mate, was in wide circulation: "This isn't just a wink to white supremacists—he's throwing them a welcome home party." The city was the site of an infamous attack by white people on black people in 1921, notes the AP. "To choose the date, to come to Tulsa, is totally disrespectful and a slap in the face to even happen," says Sherry Gamble Smith, president of Tulsa's Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce. The group is named after the black community that white Oklahomans burned down in 1921.

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  • In defense: The AP reports that the Trump campaign was aware of the date's significance ahead of time and in internal discussions noted that Joe Biden held a fundraiser on June 19 last year. Still, the intensity of the criticism has been a surprise, say two campaign officials. The official reply: "As the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth," says campaign adviser Katrina Pierson. "President Trump has built a record of success for black Americans."
  • One take: Even if the choice of June 19 was unintentional, "it's hard to overlook the insensitivity over race when the president's campaign is selling 'Baby Lives Matter' onesies on its website," per an analysis in the New York Times. The story assesses more of Trump's moves amid the current unrest and concludes that he "increasingly sounds like a cultural relic, detached from not just the left-leaning protesters in the streets but also the country's political middle and even some Republican allies and his own military leaders." (The campaign is indeed selling those onesies, notes CNN.)
  • Similar theme: A spate of stories (generally in outlets Trump considers to be biased) echoes the theme of that Times article. "At a time when much of the country appears to be moving in a different direction, President Trump has charged into a series of fights over the nation's racist legacy—gambling that taking divisive stances on Confederate symbols and policing will energize his mostly white supporters in November," is the first paragraph of a Washington Post story. And a headline in the New Yorker wonders, "Trump Hates Losers, So Why Is He Refighting the Civil War—on the Losing Side?"
(Read more President Trump stories.)

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