Donald Trump has attacked “fake news” and the press in a speech that was meant to be about Black History Month.
The president used his comments on Wednesday to continue his war with the media, saying it was a “disgrace” for them to report the bust of America’s most revered civil rights hero had been removed from the Oval Office.
Flanked by black staff and supporters in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, Trump began promisingly, noting the contribution of African Americans and their “unimaginable sacrifice”. Then he brought up an issue that has been irking him.
“Last month we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, whose incredible example is unique in American history,” Trump said.
But he went on: “You all read about Dr Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. And it turned that that was fake news.”
The bust is “cherished”, he insisted, and one of “the favourite things” alongside busts of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, who previously held the office Trump now does.
He continued: “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.”
He then talked about the monuments and museums in Washington that teach children about America’s black heroes, like Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks.
But he soon reverted to talking about himself, using a reference to his longtime supporter Darrell Scott, who was in the room, to turn things back to Trump and the media.
“I don’t watch CNN,” he said, still ostensibly talking about Black History Month. “I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.”
For those keeping score, this was the second time he used the phrase “fake news” as he tried to celebrate Black History Month.
He praised those around him as having helped him win support among black voters.
Earlier, he said with uncharacteristic understatement, he wasn’t expected “to do well with the African-American community”.