February is Black History Month, and let's just say it's looking like it'll be a very different in the years to come than it was over the last eight. Since 2009, every such month has been paired with the living history of having America's first black president in the White House. Someone who gave the month its proper due and respect, complete with a refined and eloquent knowledge of American history. And what the U.S. has now is, well, not that ― Donald Trump kicked off Black History Month by making the whole thing about himself, complaining about the media's treatment of his presidency and his campaign.
Here's what Trump said about civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to kick off the month, as transcribed by Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star.
Last month we celebrated the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. And it turned out that that was fake news. The statue is cherished. It's one of my favorite things ― and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. And we have others. 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.
Trump didn't stop there. He also spoke about famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, as Dale detailed:
I am very proud now that we have a museum, National Mall, where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more, I notice.
Trump also mentioned some of his cadre of black surrogates and supporters ― specifically former reality TV contestant and Trump black outreach director Omarosa Manigault, and pro-Trump GOP surrogate Paris Dennard ― and commented on what a great secretary of Housing and Urban Development retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson would be.
I've gotten a real glimpse during the campaign, I'd go around with Ben to a lot of places that I wasn't so familiar with. They're incredible people. And I want to thank Dr. Ben Carson, who's going to be heading up HUD, and it's a big job, and it's a job that's not only housing, it's mind and spirit, right? And you understand that. Nobody's going to be better than Ben.
It should come as no surprise that Trump turned his remarks on Dr. King into a denunciation of the media, considering he similarly spent his time speaking in front of the CIA's Memorial Wall hashing out old feuds and complaining about reporting of his inauguration crowd size.
Even though American history lessons often whitewash the finer details of King's legacy, including his more forceful condemnations of racism, white society, and in particular "the white moderate," it's nonetheless startling that Trump couldn't cobble together an even mildly deferential, mainstream statement. You know, one that wasn't so stereotypically drenched in grievance and self-absorption.
It's also worth noting that the reporter he called out for mistakenly claiming the MLK bust had been moved, Zeke Miller of Time, immediately apologized and retracted his reporting after it was corrected, and his apology was accepted by White House press secretary Sean Spicer the very same night. That didn't stop Spicer from angrily castigating Miller by name the next day during his first introduction to the White House press corps, in a testy performance reportedly ordered by Trump himself. Suffice to say, it seems like the president can't let this one go.