Jun 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump claims he made Juneteenth "very famous"

Donald Trump speaking on June 17.
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump took credit for popularizing Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S., in a wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal Thursday, saying: "I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous."

Driving the news: The president claimed that "nobody had ever heard" of the June 19 celebration before he planned a rally in Tulsa on that day. His campaign ultimately changed the date of the rally to June 20 after receiving pushback from African American leaders around the country.

Between the lines: 47 states, plus D.C., recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, but legislation to declare it a national holiday has repeatedly stalled in Congress, according to the Congressional Research Service.

  • The Trump administration put out statements on Juneteenth during each of his first three years, according to WSJ.
  • “Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” Trump said when presented with that information. “OK, oK. Good.”

The big picture: Trump told WSJ he believes that "there probably is some" systemic racism in United States," but that he thinks "it's very substantially less than it used to be."

  • Trump said he opposed renaming military assets named after Confederate generals who fought during the Civil War because he believes the names were a way to help unite the North and the South after the war.
  • Many military bases were named during a period that began in 1917 and stretched into the 1940s, more than 50 years after the end of the Civil War.
  • "And now you’re going to take them off? You're going to bring people apart," Trump said.
  • He explained that he does not regret sending a controversial tweet during the protests over the death of George Floyd in which he said, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" — a violent phrase with a racist history dating back to police brutality against African Americans in the 1960s.
  • Trump said the tweet was "a combination of both" a threat and a fact. Axios has reported that some of the president's most trusted aides were alarmed by his violent rhetoric and urged him to tone it down.

Go deeper: Trump calls coronavirus testing "overrated," says it "makes us look bad"

Go deeper