President Donald Trump responded to criticism about him holding a campaign rally on June 19, known as “Juneteenth,” which is an annual holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States.
“No, but I know exactly what you’re going to say,” Trump replied when he was asked by a Fox News host on Friday about the rally’s date.
“Think about it as a celebration. They’re always a celebration,” Trump said of the rally. “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.”
Trump is holding the rally—the first time in months during the COVID-19 pandemic—in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s the first of many to be held ahead of the November election.
“I go and I just say get me the biggest stadium and we fill it up every time. We’ve never had a vacant seat,” Trump remarked in the interview.
The president said on Wednesday that he would hold the rally a week from Friday.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who could be tapped to become Joe Biden’s vice presidential choice, criticized the rally date choice, while noting that the hosting location is in Tulsa, which in 1921 was the site of the fiery Tulsa race massacre.
“This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists—he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” Harris wrote on Twitter.
“To choose the date, to come to Tulsa, is totally disrespectful and a slap in the face to even happen,” said Sherry Gamble Smith, president of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, according to The Associated Press.
His campaign should “change it to Saturday the 20th, if they’re going to have it,” she said.
Trump’s campaign and the White House defended his plan, with the Trump administration touting his record as being beneficial for African Americans.
“The African American community is very near and dear to his heart. At these rallies, he often shares the great work he has done for minority communities,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Thursday.
Katrina Pierson, senior adviser to the Trump campaign and who is black, also wrote that “as the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.”
“President Trump has built a record of success for Black Americans, including unprecedented low unemployment prior to the global pandemic, all-time high funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and criminal justice reform,” Pierson said.