We get it — it's hard to keep track of the crazy things the president says, either on Twitter, in speeches, or in the rare interviews he gives. And the latest "did he really just say that?" moment that has people fact-checking POTUS is a claim he made in a Wall Street Journal interview: that he made Juneteenth famous.
Yep, Trump really did say he made Juneteenth famous.
The confusion over whether the quote is real or fabricated likely lies with the fact that it didn't occur over Twitter or during a televised press conference. The quote comes from an exclusive interview with WSJ, which is behind a paywall. The newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, is a slightly right-leaning centrist paper with a high confidence level for its original reporting.
"I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous," Trump claimed. "It's actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it."
As for the context for the quote, Trump was speaking about the rally he had originally scheduled to occur in Tulsa, Okla., on June 19. The timing and location of the rally drew considerable criticism. Not only is Juneteenth (which falls on June 19) a significant date in Black history marking the end of slavery in the former Confederate states, but Tulsa is also the site of a notorious and deadly race massacre that occurred 99 years ago this month.
We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th – a big deal. Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2020
A week ahead of the scheduled rally, Trump announced he was moving the gathering a day forward after reflecting upon the advice of "many of [his] African American friends and supporters." (His remarks did not acknowledge Tulsa's significance to Black history.)
After the interview was published, numerous outlets picked it up and that particular comment drew immediate backlash. On CNN, New York Times columnist Charles Blow commented, "I’m from west Louisiana. Anyone from west Louisiana and east Texas celebrated Juneteenth all the time. That’s what we did. That was our July 4th. So whenever this man says 'nobody' knew about something, it means that he didn’t know about something. It’s a tell, it’s a confession of his own ignorance.”
Juneteenth had already been recognized in 47 states and D.C. Is it possible that anytime the President said nobody had ever heard of it, he has meant that he hadn't heard of it?— Steve Kastenbaum (@SKastenbaum) June 18, 2020
Not only did lots of people already know about Juneteenth — his staff had acknowledged the date with a statement for the past three years. But apparently this was news to him. During the interview, an aide informed him of this fact and he replied, "Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement? OK, OK. Good."
While Juneteenth may not be an official federal holiday, it is recognized in 47 states and Washington, D.C. in some way, either as a state holiday or a ceremonial day. This year, many companies, such as Twitter, Nike, and Target, have announced it would be a paid holiday for the first time.
There has been a movement for many years to make the day a federal holiday with equal significance to Independence Day, finally acknowledging that Black people were not free in America on the date it declared its independence from England. Perhaps, this, the 155th-anniversary of the day, will finally be the year.