It could have been written off as a teleprompter blip, a non-Freudian slip of the tongue that didn’t carry any loaded or symbolic meaning. But President Trump’s critics — and the people of Twitter in general — did not appear willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
During the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump was talking about the role religion has played in American equality movements, but he didn’t quite get all the words right.
“Since the founding of our nation, many of our greatest strides, from gaining our independence to abolition of civil rights to extending the vote for women, have been led by people of faith,” he said.
Those four words ricocheted around the Internet all day. And they resulted in Trump getting trolled by the dictionary. Again.
The National Prayer Breakfast has been an oratorical minefield of sorts for the president, and Trump has been criticized before for using the wrong words, or tone, in his speeches. During his first National Prayer Breakfast as president, he asked attendees to pray for the ratings of his old TV show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.” “They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out,” he said. “The ratings went down the tubes. … I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings.”
The lead-up to his second prayer breakfast also invoked “The Apprentice,” when he talked about the show’s longtime producer, Mark Burnett, who was among the attendees.
Trump’s flubs, of course, aren’t limited to the prayer breakfasts: During a 2017 speech at a Black History Month event, he possibly forgot that Frederick Douglass was not, technically, alive. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,” the president said.
So it is, perhaps, not particularly surprising that people tuned into this year’s prayer breakfast looking for any tweet-able subplots, then pounced when one appeared.
Still, Trump’s homage to religious leaders rang mostly true. Slavery ended when the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865.
The abolition movement, the Associated Press noted, was led by Christian preachers in the North, while “churches in the slaveholding South were mostly silent in the years leading up to the Civil War, or actively supported slavery as consistent with their interpretation of the Bible.” The civil rights movement also involved both white and black faith leaders.