“American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth,” Trump said. “We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing.”
Still, Trump — who has a long track record of exploiting racial tensions in America — castigated others for trying to “foment hate, discord and distrust.”
“We will not allow anyone to divide our citizens by race or background. We will not allow them to foment hate, discord and distrust,” Trump said.
In his remarks at Mount Rushmore Friday and at the White House on Saturday, Trump sought to cast himself as the protector of American history and heritage, focusing on protecting the legacy of Founding Fathers and other historical American figures. But Trump has spent the last week focused squarely on defending Confederate monuments and namesakes.
“Our past is not a burden to be cast away,” Trump said at the White House’s “Salute to America” event on the South Lawn. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms. We will safeguard our values, traditions, customs, and beliefs,” Trump said.
Trump claimed without evidence during his Saturday remarks that 99% of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless.”
“Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases — 99% of which are totally harmless — results that no other country can show because no other country has testing that we have. Not in terms of the numbers, or in terms of the quality,” he said, once again also falsely claiming that rising cases are caused by increased testing.
While the World Health Organization has said the global fatality rate is likely less than 1%, the WHO also said about 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care.
The White House has not returned CNN’s request for comment on the President’s claim.
Trump spoke more about the coronavirus Saturday than he did the night before in South Dakota, but he used mention of the virus to underscore his divisive message. “China must be held accountable” for the virus, he said, and again claimed that a vaccine will be available before the end of the year.
Despite a rise in coronavirus cases across the United States, many attendees seen at the White House’s event were not practicing social distancing or wearing masks ahead of the President’s remarks, CNN observed.
The Washington, DC, celebration did not appear to be following CDC guidelines concerning gatherings despite deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere telling CNN this week that the White House would enforce social distancing.
CNN has asked the White House whether guests are being tested or having temperatures checked but has yet to receive a response. The White House stopped temperature checks of all those entering the White House grounds weeks ago. Reporters at Saturday’s event have not been tested or received a temperature check.
Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, who is attending the White House’s Fourth of July event, declined to comment on the event and the lack of social distancing.
“Good question, but let me just see,” Giroir, the assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services, said when asked if the White House event was setting a good example for other Americans. “I’m reserving judgment.”
He noted: “My wife and I are both wearing a mask.”
Biden later tweeted that “one of the most patriotic things you can do is wear a mask” during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden campaign on Saturday also responded to Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech by saying the United States is “suffering” as a result of having a “divisive” president who doesn’t “give a damn about anything but his own gain.”
“Our whole country is suffering through the excruciating costs of having a negligent, divisive president who doesn’t give a damn about anything but his own gain – not the sick, not the jobless, not our constitution, and not our troops in harm’s way,” campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement of Trump. “Even as the outbreak ramps up, he’s admitted to ordering that the federal testing response be watered down.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Donald Judd, Betsy Klein, Kate Bennett, Veronica Stracqualursi, Maggie Fox, Jamie Gumbrecht and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.