Donald Trump yells into a microphone at a press conference/illegal campaign rally.

Donald Trump Turned His Latest Press Conference Into a Racist, Incoherent (and Possibly Illegal) Anti-Biden Screed

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Donald Trump called a press conference with reporters Tuesday evening, ostensibly to talk about China and its treatment of Hong Kong. But the real purpose of the briefing was to rail against Joe Biden.

For about an hour, Trump basically held a campaign rally in the White House Rose Garden. He started by talking about how Biden has been “a gift” to China before leaving the subject of China behind entirely, moving on to how bad Biden has been for U.S. factories, for infrastructure, for the military. He brought up the swine flu. He brought up Hunter Biden. He brought up Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“a young woman—not talented, in many ways”) and Bernie Sanders (“Good base, but that’s about it”). He ranted about their environmental and immigration plans and said they “want to abolish our prisons.”

Just in case there could be any doubt at all that this was a campaign speech, he ended by saying, “there’s never been a time like this, where you’ve had an election of people so different.”

It’s not clear what exactly drove Trump to bring reporters in for an unofficial rambling rally but there’s a lot to choose from. The “press conference” (during which he only spent six minutes answering reporters’ questions) came the same day his niece Mary Trump’s tell-all book was released. Biden was getting substantial news coverage after releasing a $2 trillion plan to reduce carbon emissions earlier in the day. Trump has been receiving criticism this week for reportedly shutting Dr. Anthony Fauci out of White House coronavirus task force operations. And on top of all of that, he had to cancel a planned rally in New Hampshire this past weekend due to … “weather.” (The weather was fine; the more likely reason was fear of low turnout.)

The Hatch Act, which is supposed to prevent federal employees from endorsing political candidates, including campaigning themselves, doesn’t apply to the president. However, he’s not supposed to use federal funds for campaign events, which he very much did here. So at best, this is a major breach of protocol and established norms and at worst, it’s illegal.

Before that bizarre press conference, Trump also gave an interview to CBS News’ Catherine Herridge where he really let his racism run free. When Herridge asked him why he thinks Black people are still being killed by the police, he snapped at her: “So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people,” he said, adding, “More white people, by the way. More white people.”

Technically, Trump may not be wrong. Police departments aren’t required to release comprehensive data on killings but according to a number of studies, more white people are killed by the police than any other demographic. But because Black people make up a smaller percentage of the U.S. population, they—especially Black men—are much more likely to be killed by the police—about three times more than white people. (His response also ignores the deeply ingrained foundation racism in the U.S. police force.)

Herridge also asked Trump if he understands that the Confederate flag “is a painful symbol for many people because it’s a reminder of slavery?” He does not. He says people don’t even think of slavery when they look at the flag, they think of NASCAR. “I just think it’s freedom of speech,” he said, “whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about, it’s freedom of speech.”

Yup, that’s the president putting a symbol of slavery, violence, and systemic oppression on the same level as the people asking not to be subjected to systemic oppression. Also, we can all guess how it would go down if someone brought out a BLM flag at one of his rallies. Do we think he’d still be defending their “freedom of speech” then? We do not.

(image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.