President Donald Trump on Friday accused “angry mobs” of trying to erase history with efforts to remove or rethink monuments to U.S. historical figures and used a speech at Mount Rushmore to paint himself as a bulwark against left-wing extremism.
On a day when seven U.S. states posted a record number of new COVID-19 cases, the pandemic moved further into Trump’s inner circle. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign official and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., tested positive in South Dakota before the event, according to Sergio Gor, a Trump campaign official. Trump Jr. tested negative, Gor said.
The pre-July 4 holiday event drew 7,500 people, packed into an outdoor amphitheater. Many did not wear masks, defying the advice of health officials who have urged Americans to avoid large gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Trump has not worn a mask in public and made only limited reference to the pandemic in his remarks.
Speaking underneath the famed landmark depicting four U.S. presidents, Trump warned that the demonstrations over racial inequality threatened the foundations of the U.S. political system.
“Make no mistake, this left wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution,” Trump said. “Our children are taught in school to hate their own country.”
In the nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, protesters in several cities have vandalized the statues of leaders, including Confederate generals who led a rebellion against the U.S. government during the 1861-65 U.S. civil war.
Protesters in one instance unsuccessfully tried to pull down a statue of U.S. President Andrew Jackson outside the White House. Jackson, known for his populist policies, owned slaves and forced thousands of Native Americans from their homes.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” Trump said.
Trump, a Republican who has emphasized a “law and order” approach to the demonstrations, has opposed proposals to rename U.S. military bases that are named after Confederate generals.