“We had previously scheduled our #MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for June 19th — a big deal,” Trump wrote. “Unfortunately, however, this would fall on the Juneteenth Holiday. Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out to suggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this Holiday, and in observance of this important occasion and all that it represents.”
In a television interview recorded Thursday, Trump said the date had not been chosen deliberately but dismissed concerns about the timing.
“Think about it as a celebration. My rallies are celebrations,” Trump told Fox News. “In the history of politics, I think I can say, there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do … The fact I’m having a rally on that day you can really think about that very positively.”
During the same interview, Trump also asserted that, “I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president.”
“And let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln, ’cause he did good, though it’s always questionable, you know,” he added without further explanation.
The timing and location of the rally had drawn heavy criticism from African American leaders and Democrats, who said it sent the wrong message, particularly in the wake of weeks of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Tulsa was the site of a 1921 massacre in which a white mob killed dozens of black people and destroyed black-owned businesses.
In a tweet this week, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), an African American woman considered as a possible running mate for Joe Biden, wrote that “Tulsa was the site of the worst racist violence in American history.”
“The president’s speech there on Juneteenth is a message to every Black American: more of the same,” she said.
Similarly, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), also a black lawmaker on Biden’s list of potential vice presidents, tweeted, “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists—he’s throwing them a welcome home party.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) commended Trump’s decision to delay the rally.
“I am thankful President Trump recognizes the significance of June 19 and has chosen to move his campaign rally out of respect to Oklahomans and the important Juneteenth celebrations,” he said in a statement.
But Oklahoma state Rep. Ajay Pittman (D), a member of the legislature’s Black Caucus, said Trump only changed the date because of the backlash and not “an attempt to respect” the holiday.
“In reality, it was due to the outcry of disdain around the nation. His actions confirm that his black and brown supporters were an afterthought due to the color of their skin,” she said in statement reported by the Oklahoman.
There likely would have been, and may still be, protests of Trump’s visit, which Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) seemed to try to temper in a tweet Thursday after the rally was first announced.
“In Tulsa, we protect the free and peaceful exchange of ideas. We did it during the last two weeks of protests, and we will do it during the President’s visit to Tulsa next week,” Bynum wrote.
Trump’s rallies, which typically draw thousands of supporters, have been on hold since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In his Friday night tweets, Trump boasted of the number of tickets that have been distributed for the Tulsa event, adding, “I look forward to seeing everyone in Oklahoma!”