— Update at bottom —
On Wednesday, President Trump commemorated the start of Black History Month by blasting CNN and commending Fox News.
During his remarks to the press, Trump praised black GOP strategist and CNN contributor Paris Dennard, saying he’s “done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community — he’s all by himself. Seven people and Paris. I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see [Dennard] as much. I don’t like watching fake news.”
“But Fox has treated me very nice, wherever Fox is, thank you,” Trump added.
Fox News may treat Trump well, but the same can’t be said of how the channel treats the black community. During a Watters World segment on The O’Reilly Factor last year, Bill O’Reilly sent Jesse Waters to Princeton to say the word “ghetto” to black students and see how they responded. In December, O’Reilly embraced the Trump-Bannon brand of white nationalism, proclaiming, “The left wants power taken away from the white establishment… So-called white privilege bad. Diversity good.”
Trump’s now-familiar criticism of the mainstream media came after he made puzzling remarks about African American heroes.
With regard to Martin Luther King Jr., Trump merely mentioned his “incredible example” before transitioning to blasting the media yet again.
“You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. And it turned out that that was fake news. The statue is cherished. It’s one of the favorite things — and we have some good ones,” Trump said. “But they said the statue, the bust, of Dr. Martin Luther King was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. It’s very unfortunate.”
Transitioning to Frederick Douglass, Trump characterized him as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more, I notice.” Douglass died in 1895.
Congratulations to Frederick Douglass for doing an amazing job and being recognized more and more.
— Luke O'Neil (@lukeoneil47) February 1, 2017
Concluding his remarks, Trump echoed his campaign pitch to the black community, which consisted of telling them how terrible their lives are and asking them to give a non-Democrat a chance for a change.
“We’re going to work very hard on the inner city,” Trump said. “We’re going to make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible.”
Trump then turned to Omarosa, who made a name for herself during the first season of Trump’s The Apprentice and is now the White House Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison.
“I want to thank my television star over here — Omarosa’s actually a very nice person. Nobody knows that,” Trump said. “I don’t want to destroy her reputation. She is a very good person and she’s been helpful right from the beginning with the campaign and I appreciate it, I really do. Very special.”
You can read the full transcript of Trump’s remarks here. Here’s the full video.
At one point, Trump said, “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 we’re now going to take that to new levels.”
Trump’s claim is false. He won 12 percent of the black vote, compared to 13 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012 and 13 percent for John McCain in 2008. But at the beginning of his remarks on Wednesday, he vowed that “next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51 [percent], right. At least 51.”
UPDATE: During a subsequent press availability on Wednesday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had a hard time stringing together a coherent response to a question about Trump’s Frederick Douglass remarks.
A reporter referred to Trump’s comments about Douglas “being recognized more and more” and asked Spicer, “Do you have any idea what specifically he was referring to?”
“Well I think there’s — I think he wants to highlight the contributions that [Douglas] has made. And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that’s he’s gonna make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more,” Spicer said.