President Donald Trump raised more than a few eyebrows with his remarks Wednesday — the first day of Black History Month — during an “African American History Month Listening Session” at the White House.
Sitting beside Housing secretary nominee Ben Carson in the Roosevelt Room, Trump began the session with a circuitous speech in which the president, among other things, lambasted the media and rehashed a recent controversy involving a Martin Luther King Jr. statue in the Oval Office.
“Donald Trump just gave a Black History Month speech about the persecution of Donald Trump,” reads the headline of the Toronto Star‘s account of the speech. A few highlights below, as noted by reporters:
Trump: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job & is being recognized more & more I notice” (he died in 1895) pic.twitter.com/TBLmGHovHZ
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 1, 2017
Trump today: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” pic.twitter.com/OXBeDo2J7T
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) February 1, 2017
Read the full remarks below, as transcribed by the White House:
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. These are a lot of my friends, but you have been so helpful. And we did well. The election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple it up or quadruple it, right? We want to get over 51, right? At least 51.
Well, this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi, Lynne, how are you?
MS. PATTON: Hi, how are you?
THE PRESIDENT: Nice to see you. And just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of the African Americans throughout our country — throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work and faith in America.
I’ve gotten a real glimpse — during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places that I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s going to be heading up HUD. It’s a big job, and it’s a job that’s not only housing, it’s mind and spirit, right, Ben? And you understand that. Nobody is going to be better than Ben.
Last month, we celebrated the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. 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. (Laughter.) It was fake news. The statue is cherished. It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson and we have Dr. Martin Luther King, and we have — 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. Very unfortunate.
I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s 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. Big impact.
I am proud to honor this heritage, and we’ll be honoring it more and more. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. And Darrell — I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. (Laughter.) And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right? And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. (Laughter.) He’s all by himself — seven people and Paris. So I’ll take Paris over the seven. (Laughter.) But I don’t watch CNN so I don’t get to see you as much as I want to. (Laughter.) I don’t like watching fake news.
PARTICIPANT: None of us watch it either anymore.
THE PRESIDENT: But Fox has treated me very nice — wherever Fox is, thank you.
We’re going to need better schools, and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages — a lot better wages. We’re going to work very hard on the inner city. Ben is going to be doing that big league. It’s one of his big things that we’re going to be looking at.
We need safer communities, and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re going to make it safe. We’re going to make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really — you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show. I’m ready to do my part — it’s the only time I can see him. I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re going to work together.
This is a great group. 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.
I want to thank my television star over here. (Laughter.) Omarosa is actually a very nice person. Nobody knows that, but — (laughter) — I don’t want to destroy her reputation. She is a very good person and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign. And I appreciate it. I really do. Very special.
And so I want to thank everybody for being here. Could we maybe just go around the room and we’ll introduce ourselves. And the press can stay for that, and I’m sure they have no questions about last night because it was such a good launch. We have a fantastic, hopefully, new justice of the Supreme Court. And hopefully, that will be — he’ll be approved very, very quickly. He’s outstanding in every way — academically. He’s done almost as well as you did, Darrell, in college. (Laughter.) Not quite, right? But he’s a great man and I think he’ll be a great, great justice. And he’s being very well-received. It was a big evening. Very big evening.
So, Paris, why don’t we start with you? Go ahead.
MR. DENNARD: Pleasure to be here, Mr. President. Honor to be here. Paris Dennard. Thurgood Marshall College Fund represents the 47 publically supported historically black colleges and universities, which I know you are very much in support of. So it’s a pleasure to be here, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m glad you’re in support of me because I’d be all — I’d be in the wilderness without you guys. You are so effective. I appreciate it.
MR. DENNARD: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. CLEVELAND: Bill Cleveland. I’m a retired Capitol police officer, former vice mayor of the city of Alexandria, and substitute teacher in the Alexandria school system. Glad to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you.
MR. MATTHEWS: Bill is also a Vietnam veteran, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, good.
MR. MATTHEWS: I’m Earl Matthews, sir. I work for you at the Department of Defense. I was sworn in an hour after you were. Also a veteran and a longtime supporter of yours. I’ve worked for you since late summer. I’m happy to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Lieutenant Colonel — good job.
MS. SCOTT: I’m Belinda Scott, Darrell’s wife. New Spirit Revival Center from Cleveland, Ohio. Pastor of New Spirit. Great amount of support in the African American community where we are. We love the Lord, we love our new President, and we are praying for our President on a regular basis.
THE PRESIDENT: You know, the one thing I didn’t understand about Belinda — I thought they were married maybe five or six years, because look how they look so young. (Laughter.) Should you say how many years you’ve been married?
MS. SCOTT: Thirty-five.
PASTOR SCOTT: We’ve been together for 38.
MS. SCOTT: Been together for — but in the Lord –(laughter) — 35, yes.
PASTOR SCOTT: Two years under — (inaudible.) (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s actually amazing. I wouldn’t have known.
MS. SCOTT: But can I say this — I am so grateful that our President gives us that ear to listen to the community — to listen. And people like us are just here to constantly put that message out into the community. And we love you for that. We love you for listening and we thank you for that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
PASTOR SCOTT: Darrell Scott, pastor at New Spirit Revival Center and black Trump supporter. (Laughter and applause.) But speaking of the community, let me just say this real quick. Omarosa, I told you I’m going to try to throw it in. I was recently contacted by some of the top gang thugs initiative Chicago for a sit-down. They reached out to me because they associated me with you. They respect you, they believe in what you’re doing, and they want to have a sit-down about lowering that body count. So in a couple of weeks, I’m going into Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great idea because Chicago is totally out of control.
PASTOR SCOTT: Well, I let him know — I said, we’ve got to lower that body count. We don’t want to talk about anything else — get that body count down. And they agreed. But the principle is they can do it. These are guys straight from the streets — no politicians — straight street guys. But they’re going to commit that if they lower that body count, we’ll come in and we’ll do some social programs. So they’re in agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: If they’re not going to solve the problem — and what you’re doing is the right thing — then we’re going to solve the problem for them because we’re going to have to do something about Chicago. Because what’s happening in Chicago should not be happening in this country.
PASTOR SCOTT: But they want to work with this administration.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
PASTOR SCOTT: They want to. They reached out — I didn’t reach out to them. They reached out to me.
THE PRESIDENT: I understand.
PASTOR SCOTT: They want to work with this administration. They believe in this administration. They didn’t believe in the prior administration. They told me this out of their mouth. But they see hope with you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I love it.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. President, I’m a member of what we call the media, but we try to be fair and objective. (Laughter.) Not all media seems to be the opposition party. There are those that see the good that you’re doing. We report it. I’m just honored to have a seat at the table today.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And it is — I mean, a lot of the media is actually the opposition party. They’re so biased and really is a disgrace. Some of you are fantastic and fair, but so much of the media is opposition party and knowingly saying incorrect things. So it’s a very sad situation. But we seem to be doing well. It’s almost like, in the meantime, we won. So maybe they don’t have the influence they think, but they really are — they really have to straighten out their act. They’re very dishonest people.
PASTOR DAVIS: Pastor James Davis. We’ve been — Mr. President, we’ve been a supporter of yours from the beginning alongside Mr. Michael Cohen and Dr. Darrell Scott with the National Diversity Coalition. It helped to bring out a huge number in the black community with respect to the vote. And we’re still happy to be in support as we go forward.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You’ve been great. Thank you, James.
MS. PATTON: Hi, Mr. President. Yes, I am, as you know, the former vice president of the wonderful charity that your son founded — Trump Foundation. I’ve been with your family for about eight years now, right, Jared? And I was an RNC speaker and I will be landing with Dr. Carson at HUD as one of his senior advisors —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, that’s great. You’ve got a good person.
MS. PATTON: — and Director of the Office of Public Liaison.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. You did a fantastic job.
MS. PATTON: Thank you.
MR. ROBINSON: Mr. President, my name is Gerard Robinson. I’m a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and I was proud to be the leader of the education policy team for the Trump transition.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. BELL: Mr. President, good to be with you. I’m Ashley Bell, Gainesville. Chairman Priebus called me out (inaudible) African American outreach for your campaign. I’m glad you support Omarosa, glad to be here, and I’ll be wanting to help you out at the State Department.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you very much.
MS. MANIGAULT: Tucker was a star at the inauguration.
MR. DAVIS: I’m Tucker Davis. I ran your campaign in West Virginia, working for you in the —
THE PRESIDENT: We did well in West Virginia. (Laughter.)
MR. DAVIS: Coal miners love you.
THE PRESIDENT: And we love the coal miners. We’re going to put them back to work.
MR. DAVIS: Absolutely.
MS. LEVELL: Leah LeVell. I was at the RNC and also at PIC. And I helped launch the video series every week — the midweek message that reached out to millennials and college students and helped launch the college Republican chapter at Howard University.
MS. MANIGAULT: That’s Chris LeVell’s daughter. We snagged her. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, really? Great job.
MS. ALEXANDER: Mr. President, Monica Alexander, executive administrative assistant in the office of public liaison, supporting Omarosa.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay, well, that’s nice.
MR. SMITH: Mr. President, Ja’Ron Smith. I’m with the Domestic Policy Council, Andy Bremberg’s team, and I’ll be focusing on urban affairs and revitalization.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic.
MS. MANIGAULT: And Howard graduate. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Howard graduate. That’s good stuff. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.